Book of Joshua

contains a history of the Israelites from the death of Moses to
that of Joshua. It consists of three parts: (1.) The history of
the conquest of the land (1-12).
(2.) The allotment of the land
to the different tribes, with the appointment of cities of
refuge, the provision for the Levites (13-22), and the dismissal
of the eastern tribes to their homes. This section has been
compared to the Domesday Book of the Norman conquest.
(3.) The
farewell addresses of Joshua, with an account of his death (23,
24).

This book stands first in the second of the three sections,
(1) the Law, (2) the Prophets, (3) the "other writings" =
Hagiographa, into which the Jewish Church divided the Old
Testament. There is every reason for concluding that the uniform
tradition of the Jews is correct when they assign the authorship
of the book to Joshua, all except the concluding section; the
last verses (24:29-33) were added by some other hand.

There are two difficulties connected with this book which have
given rise to much discussion,

(1.) The miracle of the standing
still of the sun and moon on Gibeon. The record of it occurs in
Joshua's impassioned prayer of faith, as quoted (Josh. 10:12-15)
from the "Book of Jasher" (q.v.). There are many explanations
given of these words. They need, however, present no difficulty
if we believe in the possibility of God's miraculous
interposition in behalf of his people. Whether it was caused by
the refraction of the light, or how, we know not.

(2.) Another difficulty arises out of the command given by God
utterly to exterminate the Canaanites. "Shall not the Judge of
all the earth do right?" It is enough that Joshua clearly knew
that this was the will of God, who employs his terrible
agencies, famine, pestilence, and war, in the righteous
government of this world. The Canaanites had sunk into a state
of immorality and corruption so foul and degrading that they had
to be rooted out of the land with the edge of the sword. "The
Israelites' sword, in its bloodiest executions, wrought a work
of mercy for all the countries of the earth to the very end of
the world."

This book resembles the Acts of the Apostles in the number and
variety of historical incidents it records, and in its many
references to persons and places; and as in the latter case the
epistles of Paul (see Paley's Horae Paul.) confirm its
historical accuracy by their incidental allusions and
"undesigned coincidences," so in the former modern discoveries
confirm its historicity. The Amarna tablets (see ADONIZEDEC
T0000099) are among the most remarkable discoveries of the age.
Dating from about B.C. 1480 down to the time of Joshua, and
consisting of official communications from Amorite, Phoenician,
and Philistine chiefs to the king of Egypt, they afford a
glimpse into the actual condition of Israel prior to the
Hebrew invasion, and illustrate and confirm the history of the
conquest. A letter, also still extant, from a military officer,
"master of the captains of Egypt," dating from near the end of
the reign of Rameses II., gives a curious account of a journey,
probably official, which he undertook through Israel as far
north as to Aleppo, and an insight into the social condition of
the country at that time. Among the things brought to light by
this letter and the Amarna tablets is the state of confusion and
decay that had now fallen on Egypt. The Egyptian garrisons that
had held possession of Israel from the time of Thothmes III.,
some two hundred years before, had now been withdrawn. The way
was thus opened for the Hebrews. In the history of the conquest
there is no mention of Joshua having encountered any Egyptian
force. The tablets contain many appeals to the king of Egypt for
help against the inroads of the Hebrews, but no help seems ever
to have been sent. Is not this just such a state of things as
might have been anticipated as the result of the disaster of the
Exodus? In many points, as shown under various articles, the
progress of the conquest is remarkably illustrated by the
tablets. The value of modern discoveries in their relation to
Old Testament history has been thus well described:

"The difficulty of establishing the charge of lack of
historical credibility, as against the testimony of the Old
Testament, has of late years greatly increased. The outcome of
recent excavations and explorations is altogether against it. As
long as these books contained, in the main, the only known
accounts of the events they mention, there was some plausibility
in the theory that perhaps these accounts were written rather to
teach moral lessons than to preserve an exact knowledge of
events. It was easy to say in those times men had not the
historic sense. But the recent discoveries touch the events
recorded in the Bible at very many different points in many
different generations, mentioning the same persons, countries,
peoples, events that are mentioned in the Bible, and showing
beyond question that these were strictly historic. The point is
not that the discoveries confirm the correctness of the Biblical
statements, though that is commonly the case, but that the
discoveries show that the peoples of those ages had the historic
sense, and, specifically, that the Biblical narratives they
touch are narratives of actual occurrences."