Bible Dictionary

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Joshua, book of

So called not because he is the author, but because he is the principal figure in it. It describes (1) the conquest of Canaan (Josh. 1–12); (2) the allotment of the land among the tribes and Joshua’s final exhortations (Josh. 13–24).

(1) The story of the conquest falls into two sections of nearly equal length but very dissimilar in the fulness and minuteness of the particulars they give; (a) Josh. 1–6, description of the way in which the Jordan was crossed, the headquarters of Israel fixed at Gilgal, Jericho taken, and command of the passes to the higher plateau of western Canaan secured; (b) a condensed account of the victories of Israel over the inhabitants of this higher plateau, consisting of three parts, relating to the central, southern, and northern portions respectively. This narrative concludes with a general statement of the results of the conquest and a list of conquered cities.

(2) This section falls under three heads: (a) Josh. 13, the assignment of the eastern territory to Reuben, Gad, and half Manasseh; (b) western territory to Judah (Josh. 14–15), to children of Joseph (Josh. 16–17), and to seven remaining tribes (Josh. 18–19); (c) Josh. 20–21, the arrangements about the cities of refuge and the provision for the Levites. The book concludes (Josh. 22–24) with an account of the setting up of the altar by the trans-Jordanic tribes and Joshua’s farewell address.

The book was regarded by the Jews as the first of the “former prophets,” but it is more properly a continuation of the first Five Books.