Joshua 1–24

Old Testament Teacher Resource Manual, (2003), 107–11


The book of Joshua carries the name of its primary prophet and figure. Joshua probably wrote or supervised most of the writing of this book, but he could not have written all of it since it also tells about his death and burial. In Hebrew, Joshua means “the Lord saves” or “the Lord gives the victory.” The Greek form of this name is Jesus.

The book of Joshua tells how the Lord helped the Israelites obtain the promised land. The accounts of the conquest make it obvious that the Lord made possible their victories. In many ways the story of this Joshua is a type of the future Joshua, Jesus Christ. Jesus triumphed over our enemies—including the devil, who is “the enemy to all righteousness” (Moroni 9:6)—and leads us into the promised land of the celestial kingdom after we journey through the wilderness of life.

This book testifies that the Lord fulfills His promises. The Lord had covenanted that Abraham’s descendants would obtain possession of the land of Canaan. Although the Israelites never possessed all of the land promised to Abraham because of their disobedience, Joshua’s era was the first time Abraham’s descendants actually ruled in the land of Canaan.

The book of Joshua can be organized into three main parts:

  1. 1.

    The conquest of Canaan (chapters 1–12).

  2. 2.

    The division of the land among the tribes of Israel (chapters 13–22).

  3. 3.

    Joshua’s final instructions and testimony before his death (chapters 23–24).

For more information, see Bible Dictionary, (p. 718).

Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For

Suggestions for Teaching

video icon Old Testament Video presentation 17, “No Other Gods before Me” (10:22), can be used in teaching Joshua 1–24 (see Old Testament Video Guide for teaching suggestions).

Joshua 1. Daily scripture study helps us understand and live the gospel so that we can obtain the blessings of the Lord. (30–40 minutes)

To prepare students for Joshua 1, read the following imaginary letter from Joshua seeking advice:

To whom it may concern:

My name is Joshua. I have been appointed the new leader of the children of Israel in the place of our great leader Moses, who led us out of Egypt and is now departed from us. I am completely humbled by this calling and feel very inadequate in trying to take the place of such a wonderful prophet. What advice can you offer on how I could be successful in this new role I have been called to? The people have promised to follow me in the same way they followed Moses.

Sincerely, Joshua

Read Joshua 1 with students and find the counsel the Lord gave Joshua. As a class, list what the Lord said would help Joshua be a successful leader in Israel. Give special attention to the instruction to be strong and courageous (see vv. 6–7, 18). Ask students what they think that means. Share the following statement by President Gordon B. Hinckley:

“This is His work. Never forget it. Embrace it with enthusiasm and affection.

“Let us not be afraid. Jesus is our leader, our strength, and our king.

“This is an age of pessimism. Ours is a mission of faith. To my brethren and sisters everywhere, I call upon you to reaffirm your faith, to move this work forward across the world. You can make it stronger by the manner in which you live. …

“How glorious is the past of this great cause. It is filled with heroism, courage, boldness, and faith. How wondrous is the present as we move forward to bless the lives of people wherever they will hearken to the message of the servants of the Lord. How magnificent will be the future as the Almighty rolls on His glorious work, touching for good all who will accept and live His gospel and even reaching to the eternal blessing of His sons and daughters of all generations through the selfless work of those whose hearts are filled with love for the Redeemer of the world. …

“I invite every one of you, wherever you may be as members of this church, to stand on your feet and with a song in your heart move forward, living the gospel, loving the Lord, and building the kingdom. Together we shall stay the course and keep the faith, the Almighty being our strength” (in Conference Report, Sept.–Oct. 1995, 95–96; or Ensign, Nov. 1995, 72).

scripture mastery icon Joshua 1:8 (Scripture Mastery). Scripture study helps us understand and live the gospel. (10–15 minutes)

Read Joshua 1:8 and ask students:

  • What did the Lord counsel Joshua to do?

  • What do we do today that is like meditating upon the law? (Study the scriptures.)

You could have students do activity B for Joshua 1 in their student study guides (p. 79).

Share the following statement by President Ezra Taft Benson:

“Studying and searching the scriptures is not a burden laid upon [Saints] by the Lord, but a marvelous blessing and opportunity. …

“The Lord was not promising Joshua material wealth and fame, but that his life would prosper in righteousness and that he would have success in that which matters most in life, namely the quest to find true joy. (See 2 Nephi 2:25)” (“The Power of the Word,” Ensign, May 1986, 81).

Write the following scriptures on the board, divide them among the students, and ask them to read and identify the benefits of scripture study:

(See Jay E. Jensen, in Conference Report, Oct. 1992, 113–14 or Ensign, Nov. 1992, 81.)

weekly icon Joshua 3–6. When we exercise faith and keep the Lord’s commandments, our faith and confidence increase and the Lord makes us equal to the challenges we face. (20–25 minutes)

On a table in the front of the classroom place a stack of six or seven books and a bucket full of water with a paper clip, button, or other small object in it. Invite two students to come to the front of the class. Ask one student to try to knock the books off the table by yelling at them. Ask the other to get the object out of the water without moving the bucket or getting his or her hands wet. When they say it is not possible to accomplish such tasks, have the class look through Joshua 3 and 6 and find the two seemingly impossible tasks the Lord helped the Israelites accomplish. Ask how these miracles were accomplished. If they are unsure, read together Joshua 3:7–13 and 6:2–5, 10. Ask students:

  • Do the instructions to accomplish the tasks sound logical?

  • What really made the waters “stand upon an heap” and the walls of Jericho come down?

  • How would those experiences affect your faith? (Activity B for Joshua 6 in the student study guide [p. 81] may be helpful in discussing this question.)

Have students make a list of weaknesses that some people think are impossible to change, such as bad habits, anger, a rebellious personality, or a weakness in resisting certain temptations. Ask:

  • Which of those does the Lord have power to change?

  • Although the Lord has power to change us, what responsibility must we take for changing our lives?

  • What has the Lord asked us to do to receive His miraculous help in our lives?

Read some of the following scriptures and relate them to the issues the students listed:

Ask students how these instructions might not seem logical. Point out that the miracles in Joshua 3 and 6 only occurred after the people followed the instructions the Lord gave them through His prophet. Read Ether 12:6 and have the students tell how it relates to those two miracles in Joshua. Ask them how this principle applies to the blessings we desire today.

Help students understand that even if the task seems impossible or the instructions seem illogical according to mankind’s way of thinking, there is nothing too hard for the Lord. Consider sharing an experience from your life when you had faith and were obedient and received blessings far beyond what seemed possible or logical, or invite a student to share an experience.

Joshua 3:13–17. We must be willing to act on faith in Jesus Christ. (10–15 minutes)

Bring a small object to class, such as a key, and put it in a paper bag. Without showing the object to the students, tell them what you have in the bag and ask how many of them believe you. Have them read Alma 32:21 and Hebrews 11:1 to discover how faith is believing in something not seen that is true—similar to their belief in the bag’s contents. Shake the bag so that they can hear there is something inside, and ask them how that affects their faith in what you told them. Show the object and ask how seeing it affects their faith. Help them understand that their faith has turned to knowledge (see Alma 32:34).

Have students read Joshua 3:13–17 and ask:

  • What was the condition of the Jordan River?

  • When did the river stop flowing.

Read together Ether 12:6 and discuss why the priests needed to get their feet wet before the river stopped flowing. Ask students what tasks they have been asked to do that might be likened to getting their feet wet before the waters quit flowing. Some examples might be paying tithes and offerings, serving a mission, waiting to date until sixteen, and accepting Church callings. Read Joshua 4:23–24 and ask why the Lord would want us to act on faith.

Joshua 5:13–15. We can learn who the “captain of the Lord’s host” is by comparing similar experiences of Joshua and Moses. (15–30 minutes)

Do activity A for Joshua 5 in the student study guide (pp. 80–81) and discuss it as a class. Share information from the commentary for Joshua 5:13–14 in Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel (p. 238). Give students time to do activity B, then discuss what they wrote.

Joshua 7. We cannot completely hide our sins because God knows them. Our actions affect the lives of others. (25–30 minutes)

Write the following sentences on the board:

It’s my life. I can do what I want. I’m not hurting anyone else.

What I do is nobody else’s business. No one else needs to know.

Ask students why those statements are not true.

One reason is that we are often unaware of how our actions affect others. To illustrate this, take a bowl of water and drop a small rock into it. Point out how even though the rock was dropped in the middle, the water at the edges of the bowl was affected. Ask students how the rock is like the influence of our actions, and how even our private sins can affect others. Invite students to give examples, making sure to avoid discussing personal sins or the sins of a specific individual.

Another reason those statements are not true is that God knows about all of our sins. We can never hide them from Him. Have students read Doctrine and Covenants 121:37–38 and look for what happens when we try to hide our sins.

Have students read Joshua 6:17–19 and identify the commandment the Lord gave the Israelites before they attacked Jericho. Read Joshua 7:1, 20–21 and find how well they obeyed that commandment. Have students read Joshua 7:2–13 and find what effect Achan’s actions had on the rest of the people. Have them read verses 14–19 to see how well Achan hid what he did from God. Ask: According to verse 5, how many men died because of Achan’s sin? Have them read Matthew 16:25; Doctrine and Covenants 42:46; 98:13–14 and find God’s promises to those who give their lives in His service. Ask:

  • Could any of the promises of those verses be meant for those who do not die? How so?

  • What might the Lord have been teaching Israel by withdrawing His help from them at Ai?

Have students read Exodus 19:5–6 and find out what the Lord wanted of the children of Israel. Have them read Romans 14:7 and ask how it applies to this principle. Read Doctrine and Covenants 110:7–8 and Alma 39:11 and discuss other ways one person’s actions can affect the lives of others today. (For example, cheating curtails learning, drunken driving can kill innocent people, and unchastity can cause pregnancy and disease.) Have the class read Alma 7:13 and Doctrine and Covenants 19:15–19 and identify how the Atonement of Christ affects us.

Some students may wonder why Achan was killed. Have them read Joshua 1:16–18 and find what Israel had agreed would be the punishment for disobedience. Have them read Joshua 7:20–21 and answer the following questions:

  • Did Achan know the covenants and commandments regarding the spoils of Jericho?

  • Read Joshua 7:5. According to this verse, what had Achan’s actions caused?

  • How is sin like a cancer?

  • How important would it be to have the cancer removed?

  • What could it do to your body if it was not treated?

  • Why is it dangerous to procrastinate repentance?

Discuss the positive aspects of our actions affecting the lives of others. Ask students what good deeds we can perform to help others and set examples for them. Remind them that our goodness, as well as our sins, can affect others.

Joshua 8–12. The people of Canaan were destroyed because of their wickedness. (15–20 minutes)

Begin class by singing “Onward, Christian Soldiers” (Hymns, no. 246) or “Behold! A Royal Army” (Hymns, no. 251) and ask students the following questions:

  • Why would members of the Church be considered an army?

  • What is the message you feel from that hymn?

  • Who are we to wage war against?

Explain that in Joshua 8–12 Israel was commanded to destroy the people living in Canaan. Read 1 Nephi 17:32–35 and look for the moral condition of the Canaanites. Ask: What did Nephi say happened to the inhabitants of Canaan? Have students read Ether 2:9–12 and note the similar language that was applied to the inhabitants of the land of Canaan and to us in our day.

Have students read Helaman 6:37 and look for how the righteous Lamanites “destroyed” the Gadianton robbers. Ask:

  • How is that like the way we fight evil today?

  • What weapons do we use to fight evil today?

Remind students that war is not Christ’s message. Help them understand that we fight against sin, not against people.

Have students read Doctrine and Covenants 4:2–7 and identify the characteristics of a successful missionary. Read Doctrine and Covenants 27:15–18 and identify the armor the Lord has provided for today’s missionary “soldiers.” If available, show students the Church statistical report from the most recent April general conference (in the May Ensign) and point out the number of missionaries who are waging this battle and how many converts are being won in this war. Have them read Doctrine and Covenants 63:37 and identify who the Lord has called to serve missions. Consider ending class by singing “Called to Serve” (Hymns, no. 249).

Joshua 13–21. The Lord kept His promise to the Israelites that they would inherit a land of promise. (25–30 minutes)

Ask students to think of the last promise they made to someone, then ask the following questions:

  • Why did you make that promise?

  • How difficult was it for you to keep the promise?

  • How do you feel when others do not keep promises made to you?

  • How do you feel when they do keep them?

Have students read Exodus 23:27–30 and look for what God promised the Israelites. Read Joshua 21:43–45 and ask if the Lord kept His promise. Have them read Doctrine and Covenants 1:38 and 82:10 and ask:

  • How certain are the Lord’s promises today?

  • Read Doctrine and Covenants 82:10. According to this verse, what could hinder the Lord from keeping His promises?

Have students turn to Bible map 3 and examine each tribe’s land inheritance. Have them find which tribe received the largest inheritance and which received the smallest. Have them read Numbers 26:52–56 and find out why.

Ask students which tribe is not represented on the map (see Joshua 13:33). Read Numbers 1:47–53 and discuss what responsibilities this tribe had that made them different from the other tribes. Have students read Numbers 35:1–8 and look for what the Lord revealed to Moses about the Levites’ inheritance. Read Joshua 21:3 and find out if the Levites received what was promised to them.

Divide the following scriptures among the students and have them look for promises the Lord has made to us:

Read Doctrine and Covenants 88:16–20 and find what land inheritance the Lord has promised us. Invite students to share what they have found, both in their study of the Old Testament and in their own lives, that shows the Lord keeps His promises.

weekly icon scripture mastery icon Joshua 23–24 (Scripture Mastery, Joshua 24:15). We each have the agency to make choices, but with each choice comes the responsibility of accepting the consequences. (35–40 minutes)

Place three items of different value into three bags (for example, a small portion of a candy bar, half a candy bar, and a whole candy bar). Invite a student to choose a bag. Show the class what was chosen and what was not chosen. Help students understand that different choices bring different consequences. Discuss how the consequences of some choices are better than others.

Have a student read Joshua 24:15 aloud and tell what choice Joshua counseled his people to make. Ask students which way Joshua chose for himself and his family. Read Joshua 23:14–16 and 24:1–15 and discuss the reasons Joshua gave for his choice to follow the Lord. Read the following statement by Elder Howard W. Hunter, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, about Joshua 24:15:

“Here was a great statement of full commitment of a man to God. … He was telling the Israelites that regardless of how they decided, he would do what he knew was right. He was saying that his decision to serve the Lord was independent of whatever they decided; that their actions would not affect his; that his commitment to do the Lord’s will would not be altered by anything they or anyone else would do. Joshua was firmly in control of his actions and had his eyes fixed on the commandments of the Lord” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1982; 83; or Ensign, Nov. 1982, 58).

Invite students to share some of the reasons they have chosen to follow the Lord rather than the ways of the world. List these reasons on the board. Ask why some people follow the ways of the world, and list those reasons on the board. Ask students to compare the two lists, and discuss how the reasons for following the world can be like worshiping false gods. Have them read Mosiah 2:38–41; 3 Nephi 27:10–11; and Doctrine and Covenants 19:16–19 and predict what the consequences will be for those who choose not to follow the Lord.

Some of the strongest influences in the choices we make are the people we associate with. Have students read Joshua 23:13 and discuss what Joshua called people who would influence Israel to make bad choices. Read verses 6–11 and discover what Joshua said Israel ought to do about the influences around them. Have students read Deuteronomy 7:1–5 and consider how those verses could apply to us today. Have a student read the section on friends in For the Strength of Youth (pp. 12–13) for additional ideas. Read the following references with your students: Matthew 5:15–16; Alma 5:56–58; Doctrine and Covenants 101:22; 88:81–86. Discuss what the Lord has commanded us to do today about the worldly influences around us.