K:JNWTS 31/2 (December 2016): 3-14


James T. Dennison, Jr. [1]

After the Pentateuch (five books of Moses; Hebrew Torah) come the ___________?

Historical Books (as they are usually labeled in Christian circles)

What are these?

They are the divinely inspired record of the story of the nation of Israel from Conquest (Joshua) to Destruction of Jerusalem, Exile to Babylon (Judges through Chronicles) and beyond (Ezra-Nehemiah and Esther).

How are these books listed in the Hebrew canon?

Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings are called the “Former Prophets” (Nebiim), while Chronicles through Esther (also Ruth) are part of the “Writings” (Ketubim).

What is the narrative plot of this portion of the Bible?

It recounts the drama of Israel’s occupation of the Promised Land followed by the drearily redundant 300-year record of idolatry, divine judgment, deliverance (Judges). The rise and demise of the Hebrew monarchy is narrated in the “one two” books, Samuel through Chronicles. Ezra to Esther concludes the narrative story with a remnant of Judah returned to the land and another remnant preserved in Persia. The biblical theology of the Historical Books features the eschatological Joshua, the eschatological deliverer (‘Judge’), the eschatological king (Davidide) and the eschatological exilee[2] (remnant and dispersion). That multi-form eschatological person, our Lord Jesus Christ, displays his story provisionally by anticipation in the record of the OT Historical Books.

Why is the book of Joshua first among the Historical Books?

It is the aperture to a narrative which unfolds the history of Israel over a millennium (ca. 1400-400 B.C.)—the closure of which is the era of revelatory silence (i.e., God ceases to speak after the Persian Era) until that dramatic silence is shattered by the eruptive intrusion of the kingdom of heaven’s God in heaven’s royal God-the-Son (Mt 4:17; Mk 1:15; Lk 4:43).

What does “Joshua” mean?

It is the Hebrew word Jehoshua/Jeshua for “savior” or “deliverer”

What is the Greek word for “Joshua”?

Iēsous or “Jesus” in English

So Joshua, the son of Nun (Josh 1:1) is the ____________?

Protological Joshua-Jesus

As such, he anticipates the _____________ ?

Eschatological Jesus-Joshua

How do you know this protological/eschatological pattern is Biblical and not just your own formulation or invention?

From Hebrews 4:8—“For if Joshua had given them rest, he would not have spoken of another day after that.”

NB: the protological Joshua-Jesus who could not give the Israel of God “rest” prefigures the eschatological Jesus-Joshua who has completed the (Sabbath) “rest” for the Israel of God (Heb 4:10). The son of Nun anticipates the Son of God.[3]

But Joshua is a warrior figure, an instrument of conquest and death to the pagan powers of Canaan.

Yes he is

And Jesus is a warrior figure, an instrument of conquest and death to the principalities and powers and rulers of darkness.

Yes he is (Col 2:15; Eph 4:8; cf. Rev 1:16, 18; 12:7-9; 17:14; 19:11-16, 19)

Thus, the protological/eschatological Joshua paradigm ties together two figures in redemptive history and two eras of redemptive history.

Yes it does: Joshua-Jesus of Nun with Jesus-Joshua of Nazareth; the era of settlement of the Promised Land with the era of the gospel of good news in a “better country”.

And the self-disclosure of God’s plan to the protological Joshua is mimetic of the self-disclosure of God’s plan to the eschatological Joshua.

Yes it is: Canaan mirrors Heaven

What aspect of God’s plan in history is specifically revealed in the protological and eschatological Joshua?

Conquest and Settlement


The protological and eschatological Joshuas conquer the land of promise by expelling the enemies of the Lord God, while simultaneously bringing the redeemed of the Lord into their inheritance.

How does the protological Joshua conquer the land?

He leads the army of God in a “divide and conquer” strategy by cutting through the center of Canaan and then rolling back the flanks south and north.

How does the eschatological Joshua perform this “conquest” function?

He divided the enemy powers of hellish darkness from his elect (by taking their place); conquers by vanquishing them (via exorcism); he also renders them impotent (through his omnipotence), then abolished their power by vicariously submitting to their erstwhile bonds and brutality (bloody death). But he magnificently shatters the cords of Sheol and bursts the lifelessness of the grave with resurrection life. He has ruined their tyranny and overthrown their slavery (crushed the head of the serpent). He has defeated and destroyed them in fully entering into their hour of darkness-death and crushing them with his hour of resurrection-light and life.

[For the following material, the reader will need a good Bible atlas. The following are recommended: Carta Bible Atlas (the most detailed, but has some liberal-critical dates which do not mesh with the Biblical data); Lawrence, IVP Atlas of Bible History; Beitzel, New Moody Atlas of the Bible.]

Where is this strategic pattern recorded?

The first half of the book of Joshua (esp. chapters 5-12) contains the narrative précis of this strategy

Where was Israel’s base camp out of which they marched against the enemies of God?

Gilgal (5:10), just west of the Jordan River and northeast of Jericho (4:19)

Where is the narrative of Israel’s conquest of the cities in the central regions of Canaan?

Jericho (6); Ai and Bethel (7-8); Gibeon, Chephirah, Beeroth and Kiriath-jearim (9:17)

What direction does Joshua turn after splitting Canaan through the middle?

South (10)

He then returns to his base camp in __________?

Gilgal (10:43)

Next, he turns his attention to the north and the Canaanite coalition under ____________?

Jabin, King of Hazor (11:1) and the “kings of the north” (11:2)

Where is the record of the conquest of the northern regions of Canaan?

Joshua 11:1-15

Chapter 11:16-23 provides __________________?

A summary of the conquest of Canaan from north to south, sandwiching the cities of the central regions in between as they lie in proximity to Joshua’s base camp at Gilgal. Notice the bracket feature which envelopes v. 16 and v. 23.

But not all the Canaanites were subdued.

No, some remained in the land to become a stumbling block to the people of God (Jdg 1:19, 21, 27-36; 2:1-3; cf. Num 33:55; Josh 23:11-13)

Where is the narrative of the allotment of inheritance for the 12 tribes?

Josh 13-22

How is this divided?

Chapter 13 lists the eastern (Transjordanian) tribal inheritance of Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh
Chapters 14-22 detail the inheritance of the remaining tribes (Cisjordanian): Ephraim, half tribe of Manasseh, Judah, Benjamin, Simeon, Zebulun, Issachar, Asher, Naphtali, Dan

What is the biblical theological significance of this pattern—conquest and settlement?

God’s promise to provide a land for his people, purified of those who hate the Lord and his commandments, apportioned among his people according to their patriarchal families—all this is provisionally realized in the Israelite theocracy.

But “provisional” means “not final”.

Yes, the presence of sin in the theocracy (both in sinful Israelites and sinful pagans) underscored the impermanence and un-finality of the theocracy. In fact, theocracy was an ideal never accomplished in the history of OT Israel (nor ever intended to be accomplished therein); it was rather a revelation of what was to be in an eschatological theocracy not of this world. As a foretaste of this, Israel was to remove the enemies of God from Canaan and take their inheritance in a land sanctified by the tabernacle presence of a holy Lord. But the remainder of in-dwelling sin in the people of the inheritance was a reminder that earthly Canaan-land was not heavenly God-land. The eternal theocracy in the land of eternal inheritance was the eschatological arena of the visio Dei (“vision of God”, face to face) and the sanctus patria (“holy country”). Only the eschatological Joshua (the very face of God) could bring the eschatological Israel of God into that land of an everlastingly holy inheritance.

What is contained in the Jericho narrative (Josh 2-6)?

Not only the supernatural power of God in destruction, but the supernatural power of God in salvation

[For the archaeology of Jericho’s destruction, see the work of Dr. Bryant Wood at the website of Associates for Biblical Research (http://www.biblearchaeology.org/ ).]

What is the approximate date of Jericho’s fall?

ca. 1407 B.C. (i.e., the date of the Exodus [1447 B.C.] – 40 years wandering in the wilderness = 1407 B.C.)

How is God’s supernatural power evident in the fall of Jericho?

Josh 6:20—“the wall fell down flat” (NASB) at the shout of the people of Israel and the blowing of the trumpets. The immediacy of the collapse strongly suggests preternatural power, not mere natural reverberation leading to collapse. This also appears to be the implication of Heb 11:30 (“By faith the walls of Jericho fell down”)—i.e., that eschatological faith (“the evidence of things not seen,” Heb 11:1) participates in the powers of the supernatural arena. Thus, the fall of Jericho was an act of the supernatural arena breaking out in the temporal/historical arena.

Where is God’s supernatural power of salvation present at Jericho?

In the narrative of Rahab

Who was Rahab?

A prostitute (Josh 2:1; Heb 11:31; Jam 2:25) who lived in a house built on the walls of Jericho (Josh 2:15)

How was she saved?

By faith (as are all sinners who are saved)

Where is the evidence of her faith?

In her confession of faith (Josh 2:9-13) in which she identifies/unites herself to the supernatural power of the Lord God who dried up the Reed Sea, who released the children of Israel from Egypt, who defeated the Amorite kings of the Transjordan, Sihon and Og.

To what is she united/joined?

By faith, to the Lord God—Creator of heaven and earth (Josh 2:11).
By faith, to the Lord God of New Beginnings who parted the Reed Sea so his people could cross over on dry ground, confirming their transition from the old era to the new era.
By faith, to the Lord God of Salvation who brought his people out of Egyptian bondage and carried them to Shittim “beyond the Jordan” (vv. 1, 10).
By faith, to the Lord God of Victory who joined himself to his people in armed conflict with the Amorite kings, empowering them to triumph.
In sum, she united herself by faith to this heavenly, all-powerful Lord God who first united himself from his heavenly arena to her heart, mind and soul.

She too was made a partaker of this “eschatological faith”?

Yes, her eschatologically gifted faith (per Hebrews 11) is that same supernatural work of the Spirit of the Lord received in the life of every redeemed sinner (even a prostitute!).
Rahab is saved—from her sin, from her prostitution (cf. 6:25), from her former life, from her Canaanite paganism, from her covenant with death apart from the grace of God (a divine and supernatural grace), which delivers her into life and light and immortality.
Her eschatological faith is her vertical (below up) response to God’s vertical (above down) penetration into her heart and life. The heavenly substance of what is hoped for becomes her possession by faith. The evidence of the invisible heavenly arena suffuses her consciousness and her spirit. So that she becomes united to the eschatological-heavenly as she is united by transformation/regeneration to the Lord God of that arena.
Supernatural-heavenly eschatological power in the end of Jericho and its death.
Supernatural-heavenly eschatological power in the beginning of eternal life in Rahab’s heart, confession, life-action.

Why did Rahab dangle a scarlet cord from the window of her house on the wall of Jericho (2:18)?

It was her ‘exodus’ sign of transition from the death-sentence curse to the life-continuing blessing. Even as Israel in Egypt escaped death by the scarlet blood of a lamb marking their abodes while death passed over, so Rahab passed over from death to life by a scarlet emblem of salvation marking her abode.

Rahab’s salvation and Jericho’s destruction follow what event?

The children of Israel crossing the Jordan River

What is the significance of this passing through the waters?

It marks yet another transition in the pilgrim sojourn of the people of God. As the passage of the Reed Sea signaled the transition between the old (era of slavery) and the new (era of sojourn in the land between), so the passage of the Jordan once more marks the transition between the old era and the new era. In this case, the end of the wilderness sojourn and the beginning of the settlement in the land of promise. Over Jordan means no longer in the land in between; rather now in this new beginning, possession of the land of rest. As the Reed Sea was the boundary between slavery and freedom, so the Jordan River is the boundary between homelessness and permanent settlement.

Where does this pattern of water ordeal transition find its climax in redemptive history?

In the passage of the eschatological Joshua (who is at once the eschatological Israel) through the waters of the Jordan River. When Jesus Christ comes “to fulfill all righteousness” (Mt 3:15) at the Jordan, his passing through the waters marks the eschatological transition between the old and the new—the age of the law and the prophets and the age of the eschatological law-giver and the eschatological prophet who is the bringer of the age of the eschatological gospel in its fullness. In Christ Jesus, the new Joshua, the new Israel, the new beginning occurs once and for all. In him, old things have passed away; in him, all things are made new. No more bondage, no more wandering in between, no more exclusion from the Promised Land, no more conflict with the enemies of the kingdom of heaven—in him, the new age erupts on the plane of history and all the old is fulfilled in him in the now/not yet kingdom of God which he brings. He is the last truly new-thing transition in the history of redemption—all the old/new transitions are complete and finished in him.

Does the succession of Moses by Joshua bring these two into dramatic narrative interface?



Moses crosses the Reed Sea (Ex 15)              Joshua crosses the Jordan (Josh 3)
Moses sends spies to Hebron (Num 13)         Joshua sends spies to Jericho (2)
Moses’ son is circumcised (Ex 4)                   Joshua circumcises sons of Israel (5)
Moses observes Passover (Ex 12)                  Joshua observes Passover (5)
Moses receives the law at Sinai (Ex 20)         Joshua renews the law at Ebal/Gerizim (8)

Is the narrative recapitulation more than paradigmatic duplication?

Yes, it demonstrates an unfolding pattern of on-going exodus motifs


Exodus liberation from bondage                    Liberation from desert wandering
Exodus tyrant overpowered                            Tyrants defeated in battle
Exodus Reed Sea crossing                              Jordan River crossing
Exodus covenant at Sinai                                Covenant renewal at Shechem
The mighty acts of God (magnalia Dei) are replayed in the life of Moses and Joshua. The narrative reduplications underscore the exodus motif as a continuing aspect of the life of God’s people as they transition into the next era of the history of redemption. The past is not merely left behind, it remains existential in the on-going grace of God whose exodus narrative repeats itself from the generation of Moses to the generation of Joshua. And all this reaches its once-for-all accomplishment in the age of the Lord Jesus Christ (eschatological Moses and eschatological Joshua). In him, we discover finality of exodus, finality of wilderness sojourn, finality of water ordeal transition, finality of promised land possession—all final in Christ Jesus whose narrative replays the past in lasting existential drama.

But there is another retrospective pattern broader than the exodus motif in Joshua?

Yes, notice the patriarchal paradigm of chapter 24:2-4, 32. Present redemptive history is united to past redemptive history in unfolding organic continuum.

How is the narrative in the days of Joshua related to the days of the patriarchs?

By way of provisional promise and fulfillment


The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had promised in a covenant of grace the following gifts: a land, a great nation, a blessing for all people. In the days of Joshua, the land is Canaan; the nation is the multitude of the children of Israel; the blessing to all people includes Israel and Gentile Rahab (and her family).

Does the blessing feature fold in Gentile as well as Hebrew?

Yes it does. Here in the case of Rahab, a foretaste of Gentiles grafted into the tree of Israel. It is a blessed provision anticipating the great harvest of the nations out of the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom there is neither Jew nor Gentile.

And there is more of this wonderful anticipation in the book of Joshua?

Yes, in the subterfuge of the Gibeonites (9)

Who were the Gibeonites?

Hivites (9:7) who dwelt in Canaan at the time of Joshua’s conquest

How were they folded into the people of God?

By tricking Joshua with the pretense of having journeyed from far beyond Canaan so as to join themselves to the people of God.

What induced them to pose this subterfuge?

Three things: the conquest of Jericho and Ai (9:3), the report of God’s saving power in Egypt (v. 9) and his conquering power in the Transjordan (v. 10).

What did Joshua do?

Joshua made a covenant with them (v. 16) promising them they could join the children of Israel in life and avoid the death sentence of the children of Canaan.

But deceit was involved.

Yes, but nevertheless Joshua had given his word that they would live and that these Gentiles too would be grafted in to the people of God, albeit as manual servants (v. 21). Better a servant in amongst the ransomed people of God than a corpse in amongst the pagan Gentiles of Canaan. The inclusion of the Gibeonite Gentiles among the people of God is a provisional fulfillment of the patriarchal covenant promise to include the Gentiles in the grace of life (which the Gibeonites embraced by sojourn and profession) and not to destroy them in the wrath of death.

After the conquest, settlement and allotment of the land, how does the book of Joshua end?

With a testamentary farewell and a covenant renewal (24)

Are there any precedents for this pattern?

Yes. Genesis 49 and Deuteronomy 33 are both chapters that contain the farewell testament of transitional figures in the OT history of redemption, namely Jacob and Moses.

What is central to these blessings lavished on the sons and daughters of the tribes of Israel?

The grace of God is the foundation of these covenant blessings

Is Joshua’s farewell covenant renewal also a part of the grace of God in its unfolding redemptive-historical continuum?

Yes, there is no works-merit principle in Israel at Joshua 24 (as there is not in Gen 49 and Deut 33). It is all the grace-faith principle which issues from God’s all-gracious divine and supernatural sovereignty.

How is the grace of God disclosed in the covenant narrative of Joshua 24?

Notice the emphatic divine “I”—God alone is the agent of favor and blessing. Israel is the recipient of God’s free, unmerited favor.

Over what period of time is God’s grace reviewed by Joshua at Shechem?

From the age of the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob) to the age of Moses and the Exodus to the age of Joshua and the conquest/settlement. God acts first (grace); Israel reacts in response (out-of-grace grateful obedience).
Thus, the covenant of grace narrative paradigm unites the stories of the patriarchs (climactic testamentary farewell, Gen 49), the story       of the exodus and wilderness sojourn (climactic testamentary farewell, esp. Deut 33) and the story of crossing Jordan to possess a land of milk and honey (climactic testamentary farewell, Josh 24).

NB: each testamentary farewell is retrospectively, existentially and prospectively oriented.

Jacob looks back to Isaac and Abraham. He affirms the present status quo. He projects the future promises to God’s people saved by grace.
Moses looks back to Jacob, Isaac, Abraham (Deut 29:13; 30:20) as well as back to Egypt and the wilderness sojourn. He affirms the present status quo. He projects the future promises to God’s people saved by grace.
Joshua looks back to Jacob, Isaac, Abraham, to Egypt and the wilderness as well as the conquest and settlement of the Promised Land. He affirms the present status quo. He projects the future promises to God’s people saved by grace.

NB: the redemptive-historical connection (organic continuum) and narrative development of each of the farewell discourses:

Patriarchal emphasis of the divine initiative of grace calling sinners out of the world of darkness; exodus emphasis on the redemptive grace of the blood of a lamb and freedom from the bondage of the powers of the evil age transitioning to a sojourn with the presence of God in the land in between; final rest in transition from sojourn to settlement in possession of God’s land of milk and honey.
Divine and Supernatural Call (all of grace)
Divine and Supernatural Redemption (all of grace)
Divine and Supernatural Rest (all of grace)

NB: every part of these unfolding connections contains a promised blessing of grace to Gentiles as well as Hebrews.

Where is the last (i.e., the eschatological) testamentary farewell in the Bible?

John 14-17, our Lord Jesus Christ’s so-called “Farewell Discourse”

What are the elements of this testamentary farewell?

A divine and supernatural choice (all of grace)—Jn 15:16
A divine and supernatural redemption in which our Lord “lays down” his life for his people—Jn 15:13
A divine and supernatural presence via the Holy Spirit for the time of sojourning in between the now and the not yet—Jn 16:13-14
A divine and supernatural blessing to the nations, Gentiles as well as Jews—Jn 17:20-21
A divine and supernatural conquest of their enemies through the One who has “overcome the world”—Jn 16:33
A divine and supernatural rest in a land of “prepared places” which shall never pass away—Jn 14:2-3

NB: it is the divine and supernatural Son of God who discloses himself in the Testamentary Farewells of Jacob, Moses and Joshua, while incarnating the salient elements of those farewells in his own life, passion, death, resurrection and ascension. The covenant of grace comes to climactic fulfillment in his incarnation, testifying that throughout redemptive history that covenant has always been of grace, grace alone, nothing but grace.

In conclusion, review the pattern of the protological and eschatological Joshua/Jesus.

Protological Joshua—
leads his pilgrim people out of the wilderness leads his pilgrim people through the waters dividing the old era from the new
confirms the law of God
conquers his people’s enemies
ushers his people into their allotted inheritance
renews the covenant of grace
bids farewell in testamentary fashion
Eschatological Joshua—
carries his pilgrim people with him out of the wilderness land in between
embodies his people as he passes through the waters declaring the end of the old era and the dawn of the new
confirms the law of God from the mount, writes it on the heart
conquers the enemy principalities and powers and rulers of his people in this present evil age
draws his people with him into his own land of eternal rest
renews the covenant in his own precious blood
bids farewell in testamentary fashion assuring the elect of better things to come

How does the end of the book of Joshua bring us back to the beginning?

It contains a theologically pregnant thematic inclusio


The death and farewell of Moses (Deut 31-34) signals the end of the old provisional era of liberation and wandering and the beginning of the new more permanent era of occupation and settlement.
The death and farewell of Joshua (Josh 23-24) signals the end of the old provisional era of occupation and settlement and the beginning of the new more permanent era of rest in the land of milk and honey.

But does not this final paradigm (Joshua) prove to be a failure—impermanent, not final, un-eschatological?

Yes, because sinful Israel at Joshua’s death will remain sinful Israel after Joshua’s death. Only the Eschatological Joshua who is the Eschatological Israel can complete and fulfill the paradigm of sinful failure with his sinless perfection and success.

The end of Joshua, son of Nun, leaves us yearning for the coming of Joshua, Son of God. And so we rest in him completely, finally and perfectly (Heb 4:8-9).

[1] I wish to acknowledge many pleasant conversations about this book with my friend, Randy Bergquist. The content of this article is, of course, my own formulation and responsibility.

[2] I have coined this word to express the notion of ‘one exiled’; it better expresses the “filling up” of the exile and dispersion in Christ Jesus (cf. Matthew and Luke’s genealogies of our Lord, 1:1-17, esp. 12-16 and 3:23-38, esp. 23-27 respectively in which he is the accomplishment of the whole history of redemption from Adam to the incarnation, exilic era included).

[3] The reader may be interested in the author’s lectures on the epistle to Hebrews for more details on these passages, especially number 11: http://nwts.edu/audio/JTD/Hebrews.htm.