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LESSON 1 –THE BOOK OF JOSHUA-JUDGES AND RUTH BIBLE STUDY
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LESSON 1: THE BOOK OF JOSHUA
THE ISRAELITES ENTER THE LAND
The first five books of the Bible are called the Law or the books of Moses. We do not know who wrote Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings, but the Jews called these books the Early Prophets. They tell the story of the people of Israel and together with Ruth and the next five books (1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther) can be called the Historical Books. The first book in the Bible, Genesis, tells us that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Adam fell into sin and all his children were born with a sinful nature and followed his example. They sinned greatly against the Lord and He destroyed them all except Noah and his family. However Noah s descendants continued to sin against the Lord. At last God called out one man, Abraham, and promised to bless him. The second part of Genesis tells the story of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. Joseph became a ruler in Egypt, next to the king himself. After Joseph s death another king made the people of Israel into slaves and for many years they had to work very hard without receiving any salary. God raised up Moses to save His people and bring them to the land, which He had promised to Abraham. The book of Exodus tells us that God brought Israel out of Egypt and commanded them to build the Tabernacle. Leviticus teaches us how the people could approach God with sacrifices. In Numbers we read about their journey through the desert to Canaan, the land of promise. In Deuteronomy Moses reminded Israel of all the commands God had given them and told them to obey the Lord and His Law. In the book of Joshua we see that Israel entered Canaan. But after Joshua died the people fell into sin and their enemies defeated them. The book of Judges shows that God raised up men to deliver Israel from their enemies. However after a while they went back into sin, but even so there were some people in Israel who followed the Lord. Ruth was one of these. She was a woman of Moab but had come to know and love the God of Israel and lived with His people. The books of Samuel tell us of Samuel the prophet, Saul the first king of Israel and King David. In the two books of Kings we read about the rule of Solomon, the division of the kingdom of Israel during the rule of his son Rehoboam, and the kings of Israel and Judah who followed him. In all these books the people continued to live in sin. Finally God punished them by allowing their enemies to defeat them and take them as prisoners to Babylon. The books of Chronicles repeat the history of Israel from the time of King David until the people were carried away as prisoners to another land. The people of Israel repented of their sins while they were prisoners in Babylon and God opened the way for them to return to their land. Ezra and Nehemiah told about this in their books. Esther did not return to Israel but served the Lord as the wife of the king of Persia. All these books have important lessons for us today. Let us consider first the life of Joshua and the teaching contained in the book, which is called by his name. The last chapter of Deuteronomy tells us that Moses died, but at that time the people of Israel were still not in the land of Canaan. The people were filled with great sorrow when Moses died and they did not know what they should do next. They did not need to worry because the Lord had already prepared another leader for them. This was Joshua to whom God spoke in the first verse of this book. Who was Joshua? He was the son of Nun, of the tribe of Ephraim, Numbers 13.8, and was born when the Israelites were still in Egypt, Numbers 32.11-12. His grandfather was the leader of Ephraim, 1 Chronicles 7.26-27; Numbers 1.10. We first read about Joshua as a soldier. Moses commanded him to choose men and go out to fight against the people of Amalek. At the same time, Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. The soldiers of Israel were stronger than those of Amalek as long as Moses held up his bands, Exodus 17.11, so Joshua learned early in his life that God gives the victory in answer to prayer. The Lord had already chosen Joshua to be a leader in Israel and was preparing him for this work, Exodus 17.14. Joshua became Moses helper and went up Mount Sinai with him at the time God told Moses how to build the Tabernacle, Exodus 24.13; 25.8-9. Moses and Joshua were on the mountain for forty days and nights, and during that time the people of Israel fell into terrible sin. Moses and Joshua heard a noise in the camp of Israel as they were coming down the mountain. Joshua thought it was the noise of people making war, but Moses recognized it to be the sound of people singing, Exodus 32.15-18. At this time Joshua was a young man who had a real desire to be close to the Lord, Exodus 33.11, but he still had lessons to learn; for example, that he should not be jealous when the Lord blessed and used other people, Numbers 11.26-29. He also learned to do what was right even when most other people did what was wrong. Moses sent twelve men to look over the land of Canaan. Ten of these men brought back the report that the people of the land were too strong for Israel. The other two, Joshua and Caleb, believed that God would help Israel to defeat them, Numbers 14.6-8. As a result the people of Israel refused to go into the land God had promised to give them. God judged them because they did not believe in Him and said that all of them would die in the desert except Caleb and Joshua, Numbers 26.65. The Lord showed that He had chosen Joshua to be the leader of Israel after Moses died, and He put His spirit on him, Numbers 27.18-21; Deuteronomy 31.7-8,14,23. Joshua himself may have never written the book of Joshua, Verses 24.26, and Stephen and the writer of Hebrews knew that the history of this book was true, Acts 7.45; Hebrews 4.8; 11.30. God gave Joshua a wonderful promise, Joshua 1.5, a promise which is given to all of us by the Holy Spirit, Hebrews 13.5. Rahab is mentioned in the New Testament, see Hebrews 11.31 and James 2.25. We can be sure that God has given us the book of Joshua and that it teaches us the truth.
GOD COMMANDED ISRAEL TO ENTER THE LAND, CHAPTER 1
Moses died after having led the people of Israel for forty years. Yes, their leader was dead, but God commanded His people to go forward just the same. God s servants may leave this world but God s work must continue. This work can be compared to building a house. Many people share in the work of putting up a house. Different people do different types of work, but all is according to the plan of the builder. Christians are indeed putting up a spiritual building, 1 Corinthians 3.10-11; Ephesians 2.20-22, but they must all build according to God s plan so that the building will be as He wants it. Some of the workmen die when their work here on earth is finished, but others keep on doing God s work according to the plan He has given us in Scripture.
GOD TOLD JOSHUA TO BE COURAGEOUS, 1.1-9
Moses was dead and now God commanded Joshua to lead the people of Israel across the Jordan river and into the land of Canaan, 1.1,2. He promised Joshua that all the land belonged to them and that they would be able to defeat all their enemies because God was with them, 1.3-6. God gave Israel the whole land of Canaan, but for many years they did not possess it all. In verse 3 we see that only the land on which they walked would really be theirs. The books of Joshua and Judges show that Israel did not get the complete victory over the people of the land. This is an important lesson for us. God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ, Ephesians 1.3, but there are many Christians who do not gain the victory over sin and do not have joy and peace in their hearts because they do not really believe God s promises. God commanded Joshua to be brave and to obey the Law of Moses. We too need courage to obey God s commands because often people laugh at those who say they are Christians. God also told Joshua to think about the Word of God day and night, and promised him that he would succeed if he obeyed this command. These promises are for Christians today as well. The Lord promises us success in our service for Him if we do it according to the instructions given in His Word. He promises to be with us and will never fail us, 1.5; Hebrews 13.5. All we have to do is to trust and obey Him.
JOSHUA TOLD THE PEOPLE TO ENTER THE LAND, 1.10-18
Joshua heard the Lord s command to lead the people into the land of Canaan and he called the officers at once. He commanded them to tell the people to prepare food for the journey so that they would be able to leave in three days, 1.10-11. Joshua had to give a special command to two and a half of the twelve tribes. The tribes of Reuben, Gad and half the tribe of Manasseh had decided before that they would rather live outside the land of promise on the east of the river Jordan. They chose this land because they thought it would be good for their cattle, Numbers 32.1-5. Many years before this, Lot chose to leave Abraham for the same reason and went to live in the valley of Jordan. He left the place of God s blessing in order to become richer in this world, but at the end of his life he did not have either riches or the blessing of the Lord, Genesis 19. Moses had to agree to let the two and a half tribes remain east of the Jordan river if they promised to help the other tribes fight for their land, Numbers 32.17, 20-22. So the Lord allowed the two and a half tribes to live in the land east of Jordan, 1.12-13, although He really wanted them to live in the land of Canaan together with the other tribes. The men of the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh agreed to obey Joshua as they had obeyed Moses, 1.16-17. The true servant of the Lord does not make his own plans and then ask the Lord to bless them. We should ask the Lord to show us what His will is and obey all His commands. These men said they would kill anyone who did not obey the commands of Joshua, but they themselves had not really tried to do God s will. In this chapter Moses is called the servant of the Lord five times, and in the rest of the book thirteen times more. It is a great honour to be called the servant of the Lord. The Bible described Joshua in the same way after he died, Joshua 24.29; Judges 2.8. The Lord Jesus Christ was also called the Servant of Jehovah, Matthew 12.18; Philippians 2.7. The Lord will give great honour to some Christians in heaven by calling them good and faithful servants, Matthew 25.21,23. These will have the joy of serving Him forever.
RAHAB, CHAPTER 2
At this time the people of Israel were still living in the land of Moab near the city of Shittim, Numbers 22.1; 33.49. There the false prophet Balaam had tried to bring evil on Israel. God had promised to bless His people, but instead He had to punish them when they fell into sin, Numbers 25.1. Moses had spoken to all Israel on the east side of Jordan and had given the great messages of Deuteronomy, Deuteronomy 1.1.
RAHAB HELPED THE MEN OF ISRAEL, 2.1-7
From Shittim Joshua sent two men to look over the city of Jericho. No doubt he remembered the time forty years earlier when Moses had sent him and Caleb and ten other men to look over the land of Canaan, Numbers 13. Joshua sent these two men secretly, but the king of Jericho heard about it. The two men entered the house of Rahab, an evil woman who had lived a sinful life, but who now wanted to worship the God of Israel, Hebrews 11.31. Rahab told the men that all the people of Jericho knew what Israel had done to two kings on the other side of Jordan and that they were very much afraid.
RAHAB SENT THE MEN AWAY, 2.8-21
Rahab really believed in the God of Israel and she showed her faith by what she did, that is by helping the men of Israel to get away safely, James 2.25. We can be saved only by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, but we must show our faith to others by doing good works, Titus 3.5; James 2.17. Rahab had a great desire to save her family and this also showed that she had really believed in God, 2.12-13. She was like another sinful woman who believed in Christ, and at once wanted to bring others to Him, John 4.28-29. Rahab asked the men to promise that the people of Israel would save her father s family when they came to take the city. The men agreed to do this if she helped them to escape, but if they were caught and killed, Israel would take the city of Jericho and Rahab would also be killed. They told Rahab to tie a red cord in the window and to bring all the members of her family into the house because everyone inside the house would be safe. Perhaps the men were thinking of the blood on the door which saved the oldest son in each family in Israel when they were still in Egypt, Exodus 12.23. Perhaps you wonder why God would save an evil woman like Rahab. It is true that Rahab was a very sinful woman, but the Lord Jesus came to save sinners, not righteous people, Luke 5.32. Both heaven and hell will be full of sinners, but those in heaven are the ones who have repented of their sins and have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. You may also wonder why Rahab told a lie about the men she was trying to help. The Bible does not say that she did what was right, and in Revelation 21.8 we see that liars of every kind will be judged. Some people believe in Christ after they have lived in sin for many years and it is hard for them to break those sinful habits right away, but God has promised to give them the victory.
THE TWO MEN RETURNED TO JOSHUA, 2.22-24
The men hid in the hills for three days and then returned to Joshua. They told him that the people of Jericho were very afraid of Israel. Their report gave Joshua still more courage.
THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL CROSSED THE JORDAN RIVER, CHAPTERS 3,4
No doubt the people of Canaan felt that the river Jordan would make it hard for any army to attack them from that direction, especially at that time of year when the water was very high in the river, 3.15. Even so the people were afraid because they had heard that the Lord had dried up the water of the Red Sea for the people of Israel, 2.10.
IN FAITH ISRAEL PREPARED TO CROSS THE JORDAN, 3.1-6
Three days had passed since Joshua had told the people of Israel to get ready for the journey, 1.11; 2.22, and now the people moved from Shittim to the edge of Jordan. After three more days the officers told the people to follow the Ark of the Lord. The Ark was a box made of wood and covered with gold. It contained the stones on which the Law had been written. The Lord had commanded that only Kohathites should carry the Ark, Exodus 25.10-11; Numbers 4.15. The people had always followed the Ark as they travelled through the desert, Numbers 10.33. Now the priests had to carry the ark and the people were to stay about 3000 feet behind it, 3.3-4. The presence of God is very holy, and that is the reason why the Israelites had to stay so far away from the Ark. However today Christians can enter into the Most Holy Place because of the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, Hebrews 10.19. We should walk close to the Lord and not far behind as Peter did, Mark 14.54. We too can say every day as we are on our way to heaven that we have not travelled this way before, 3.4. Each day we need the Lord to guide us and He has promised to do so, Psalms 32.8. Then Joshua commanded the people to make themselves pure and holy because the Lord would do a great miracle among them the next day, 3.5. God wanted the people to be clean from their sins. Perhaps we see so little blessing in the work of the Lord today because of sin in the lives of Christians, 2 Timothy 2.21. The next day Joshua commanded the priests to lift the Ark and go ahead of the people, 3.6, but Joshua himself did not know yet just what the Lord would do for them.
THE LORD STRENGTHENED ISRAEL S FAITH, 3.7-13
Now Jehovah told Joshua that He would give him great honour in the eyes of the people of Israel. He told Joshua to command the priests to go and stand with the Ark in the water near the edge of the river, 3.7-8. Joshua repeated the Lord s words to the people. God was going to do a miracle to help them believe that He would give them the victory over all their enemies in the land of Canaan. God told them that the water of the river would be stopped so that they would be able to get across to the other side. He also told them to choose a man from each tribe for a special work, 3.12. We will see in the next chapter, verses 4-8, what this work was.
THE PEOPLE OBEYED AND GOD HONOURED THEIR FAITH, 3.14-17
Note that God had spoken to Joshua and Joshua had told the people the Lord s words. They obeyed the Lord s command and walked to the Jordan. The water continued to flow in the river until the feet of the priests were actually in the water. Then the water piled up at the city of Adam about 15 miles north of Jericho and the riverbed dried up. The priests stood on dry ground while all the people went across to the other side. This is the way the Lord teaches us to have faith. We believe and obey His Word and take one-step forward in little faith. Then we see the Lord working for us and our faith is strengthened. We are now ready to believe and obey when He tells us to do something more difficult and for which we need more faith.
STONES TO HELP THE PEOPLE REMEMBER, 4.1-10
All the people had now crossed the river and the Lord told Joshua to speak to the twelve men whom he had chosen. Each man should take a stone from the centre of the river where the priests were standing, and carry it to the other side, 4.1-3. Joshua told the men to do as the Lord had commanded and he explained to them the reason for this command. Later on the children of the people of Israel would ask about the meaning of these stones, and their fathers would be able to tell them about the time when the Lord made a way for them through the Jordan river, 4.4-7. No doubt the children of the people of Israel also asked their fathers about the Passover, Exodus 12.26; about killing or redeeming the firstborn animal, Exodus 13.13-14; and about the laws of Jehovah, Deuteronomy 6.20. Their fathers were to be prepared to answer them and to tell them about the goodness and power of Jehovah. Today Christians should also teach their children about the Lord, Ephesians 6.4. The men picked up the twelve stones and piled them up at Gilgal on the west side of Jordan. God thought of the nation of Israel as one nation even though two and a half tribes wanted to stay on the east side of the river, separated from the rest of the nation. Joshua also set up twelve stones in the middle of the Jordan which were soon covered with water. The Jordan river speaks of death and these twelve stones are a picture of believers. We are crucified with Christ, Galatians 2.20, and are dead with Christ, Romans 6.8; 2 Corinthians 5.14. Today we are alive so that we might live for the glory of God.
THE PRIESTS CROSSED THE RIVER, 4.11-18
Only 40,000 men of the tribes of Reuben and Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh crossed over Jordan to help the other tribes fight their enemies. There were 43,730 men in the tribe of Reuben, 40,500 in the tribe of Gad and 52,700 in Manasseh at the time Moses numbered the people. Perhaps half the men of the tribe of Manasseh had decided to stay on the east side of Jordan. If so, 110,580 men should have crossed over to help their brothers, Numbers 26.7,18,34. Joshua had commanded all the men of war to come across and help the other tribes and they had agreed to do so, 1.14,16, but they did not keep their promise. Do we always keep our promises?
Half of Manasseh 26,350
At last the priests also crossed over, and as soon as they had come out of the river the waters started to flow again. The people had great respect for Joshua as a result of this miracle, 4.14.
THE PEOPLE CAMPED IN GILGAL, 4.19-24
These things took place only about a month after Moses death (see Deuteronomy 1.3 and Desert Journey, page 81). The people now camped in Gilgal. Later their children would ask about the pile of stones and they should tell them about God s great power which made it possible for them to cross the Jordan river. In this way all people on earth would know that God has all power, and they would fear Him forever, 4.24. Even in Old Testament times God wanted the people of Israel to tell other nations about their great God. Now Christ has risen from the dead and has commanded us to preach the Gospel to the people of every nation, Matthew 28.18-20; Mark 16.15-16. We are alive today in order that we may obey this command and tell others about our wonderful Saviour.
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TEST LESSON 1: THE BOOK OF THE JOSHUA & ENTERING THE LAND (chp 1-4)
Read each question carefully; then, select the correct answer and mark it with a X.
1. Joshua was
a) born in the land of Israel. ..................
b) a man who had Moses for a servant. ..................
c) the leader chosen by God to take Moses' place. ..................
2. God told Joshua to take all the people across the river Jordan,
a) but only the land they walked on would be theirs. ..................
b) and they took control of all the land. ..................
c) and their enemies just gave them the land. ..................
3. We become good Christians if we
a) do our best. ..................
b) work according to God's plan. ..................
c) have courage. ..................
4. Joshua sent two men to look over Jericho
a) and Rahab helped them because she had faith in God. ..................
b) but the people of Jericho killed the two men. ..................
c) but Rahab told the king where the two men went. ..................
5. The people had to cross the river
a) and God provided a boat for the women and children. ..................
b) but they were all able to swim. ..................
c) but they had faith in God and He made a dry path for them. ..................
TRUE or FALSE
6. Joshua learned that victory comes by prayer - TRUE .................. FALSE ..................
7. The people put twelve stones on the west side of Jordan to remind everyone about God's power - TRUE .................. FALSE ..................
8. The men from the two and a half tribes refused to fight - TRUE .................. FALSE ..................
9. The people feared Joshua because of the miracle - TRUE .................. FALSE ..................
10. We learn to trust God when we obey His Word - TRUE .................. FALSE ..................
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Updated May 2012 by Shelly Allen