Joshua commentary

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Josh Hunt | Forum Activity | Posted: Thu, May 14 2015 7:29 AM

What do you think are some of the best commentaries on Joshua? Not too technical. Not too devotional. 

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Paul-C | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, May 14 2015 7:36 AM

Hi Josh. Have you checked out best Here's the link to their recommended commentaries on Joshua: 

Both the Tyndale Old Testament Commentary and the New American Commentary feature highly in their list, and probably fit your bill. Not sure if you can buy the TOTC individually, if you don't already have it, but you can by the NAC volume on its own.

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Sacrifice | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, May 14 2015 7:47 AM

The ones here with.   ***   are the most recommended by this ministry:

Yours In Christ

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Jonathan Pitts | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, May 14 2015 8:56 AM

I enjoyed both Marten Woudstra (NICOT) and Dale Ralph Davis (Focus on the Bible). Woudstra for detail, Davis for common sense.

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Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, May 14 2015 10:50 AM

Word Biblical Commentary, Volume 7: Joshua is not overly technical in the commentary and explanations and is very good. I do prefer ROBERT B. COOTE in the New Interpreter’s Bible (12 vols.) as the best non technical one I own but it is only available as a set (worth it's weight in gold to me).


Here is a sample of the NIB:

JOSHUA 1:1–18



The Josianic book of Joshua begins and ends with characteristically deuteronomistic speeches and narratives (Joshua 1; 22–23; 24:29–31). The deuteronomistic opening consists of three speeches. In the first speech, Yahweh recommissions Joshua (1:1–9); in the second Joshua gives his first order to his army officers (1:10–11); and in the third, the two and a half Transjordanian, or east-bank, tribes declare their willingness to obey Joshua’s orders and to guarantee obedience from others on pain of death (1:12–18). The opening thus establishes Joshua’s authority. The whole is framed by the formulaic phrases “I/he will be with you … be strong and courageous” (1:5–7, 17–18).
The narrative opens with the phrase “after the death of Moses.” This is the deuteronomistic writer’s way of demarcating the end of the period of Moses, when the law was laid down, and the commencement of the period of Joshua. The period of Joshua ends, and the period of the judges begins “after the death of Joshua” (Judg 1:1). The period of the judges ends, and the period of the kings proper, starting with the rule of David and his establishment of what his distant successors insisted was the single shrine laid down by Moses, begins “after the death of Saul” (2 Sam 1:1).
The period of Joshua features the conquest and distribution of the land under the law of Moses, so it is not surprising that these are the main themes of Yahweh’s opening speech to Joshua. Here Yahweh recommissions Joshua to succeed Moses and command Israel in the conquest of the land west of the Jordan. The deuteronomistic character of the first speech is particularly evident, as it repeats several phrases from the account of Yahweh’s commissioning of Joshua in Deut 31:7–23. It also pictures Joshua reading the document of the law day and night, as is decreed for the king in Deut 17:18–20.
The words that frame the entire opening section also frame the first speech, in chiastic order. Yahweh commands Joshua to cross the Jordan and conquer the land, since “as I was with Moses I will be with you … be strong and courageous.… Be strong and courageous, for Idea Yahweh your God am with you” (1:5–6, 9; cf. 1:7). From the first commissioning of Joshua in Deut 3:28, it is clear that these repeated words reiterate the operative clauses of the commission: “Be strong and courageous.… I will be with you.” Moreover, Yahweh’s encouragement of Joshua to “be strong and courageous” is reminiscent of the encouragement Moses offered to Joshua (Deut 3:23; 31:7). Unfortunately, this correspondence is not evident in the NRSV, since the same Hebrew words are translated differently each time. The words also echo what Moses said to the entire nation as they prepared for conquest (Deut 31:6), and they are repeated by Joshua to encourage his fighters to debase their Canaanite captives before he executes them (Josh 10:25).
In Deuteronomy, the commissioning of Joshua (Deut 31:14, 23) is nested within the larger account of the disposition of the law of Moses (Deut 31:9–29). Both accounts of Joshua’s commissioning (Deuteronomy 31; Joshua 1) thus stress the importance of the law of Moses. It is this law that justifies the house of David’s claim to the land and thus justifies the conquest as reconquest, and it is this law through which the house of David will exercise its jurisdiction over the conquered land. This is one of many indications that Joshua is cast in the role of the monarch, a role he plays throughout this story. As Nelson explains, these indications suggested to listeners in Josiah’s court the identification of Joshua with Josiah.25 Like a king, Joshua is to study the law of Moses every day. As in the installation of a king, Joshua is commissioned with a form used for office holders in general, but with the addition of obedience to the law, which makes the installation specifically royal (cf. 1 Kgs 2:2–4).
Similarly, the opening section emphasizes that Joshua is the successor to Moses. Just as Yahweh was with Moses, so also Yahweh is with Joshua; what Yahweh commanded Moses, Joshua is commanded to do also; as the tribes obeyed Moses, they will obey Joshua; only may Yahweh be with Joshua as with Moses. Joshua’s immediate succession upon the death of Moses does not follow the consensual or charismatic pattern of tribal leadership, but the royal pattern of smooth dynastic succession, like Solomon’s succession (cf. 1 Kgs 2:2). This succession is stressed throughout the book. As Joshua is about to lead Israel across the Jordan, just as Moses led Israel through the sea, Yahweh tells Joshua that he will be exalted, so that “they may know that I will be with you as I was with Moses” (3:7). When the crossing is finished, the writer notes that “all Israel feared him as they had feared Moses.” Here “fear” (ירא yārēʾ) connotes obedience to Joshua’s command as to Moses’ law. Joshua meets the commander of Yahweh’s army in a scene reminiscent of Moses’ meeting with the angel of Yahweh at the burning bush (Exod 3:2–6).
There are still other indications that Joshua is portrayed royally. Like a king, Joshua is assigned to lead a united family of “tribes,” a family that, contrary to a genuinely early tradition like the Song of Deborah in Judges 5, suffers no internal conflict or dissension. As Chaney observes, in phrases like “all the Israelites,” “all Israel,” and “all the men of Israel,” the notion of national unity “punctuates the book of Joshua like a drumbeat.”26 Like a king, Joshua is to exercise the royal power to partition land taken in conquest. As though upon a king who individually embodies his subjects, Yahweh concentrates the promise of victory and land upon the single individual Joshua (Josh 1:5). In contrast, the same promise in Deut 11:24–25 had been expressed to the entire nation. In the third of the opening speeches, the people pledge their absolute obedience to Joshua in place of Moses, as to a king; this motif is a commonplace in ancient Near Eastern vassal treaties, which demand that loyalty owed to a sovereign must be transferred to that sovereign’s successor.
The commissioning of Joshua involves more than the pattern of royal appointment and succession. It also involves what Assyrian kings in Josiah’s time and for centuries before referred to as the “trust-inspiring oracle” of the king’s god. The first speech of the book of Joshua is just such a war oracle. In it, Yahweh encourages his lieutenant Joshua by declaring that since Yahweh will be fighting in the same battle and “will not fail you or forsake you” (1:5), Joshua should “be not frightened or dismayed” (1:9). This is a routine battle motif in the ancient Near East.27 Assyrian kings, for example, went to battle “at the command of my lord Ashur.” In the Ugaritic texts, the god El visits King Keret in a dream and commands him to make war against Pabil, king of Udum. Thus the diction of Yahweh’s speech parallels that of Deut 20:1, 8 in the law for making war, which, next to the slaughter of the Canaanite peoples, deals primarily with the need for dedication and fearlessness in the troops. Moreover, the comparison of Josh 1:9 and 10:25 should remove the modern temptation to treat Yahweh’s “trust-inspiring” words as anything other than a prelude to rout and mayhem.
The priestly account of Moses’ commissioning of Joshua (Num 27:12–23) is distinct from, but probably dependent upon, the deuteronomistic treatment of the same theme.
The land is the land Yahweh has given to the nation of Israel. Note the repetition of “give,” “gave,” and “given” (נתן nātan) throughout this opening section. The nation in this narrative consists of the idealized subjects of the house of David, and the land is the land claimed by those who held the Davidic title in the period after the fall of Samaria in 722 BCE. The narrator refers almost exclusively to the “land” rather than to its present inhabitants. The inhabitants are referred to only in 1:5, where it is evident that the trust Yahweh must inspire is trust that the inhabitants who are to be attacked will not destroy their Israelite attackers. Without this reference to the land’s present inhabitants, it might be easy to forget that the land is not just to be claimed but expropriated, and that even as myth the story is not about giving a land without a people to a people without a land.
The scope of the claimed territory is described in two ways. One way reflects the ideal that the territory of Israel should match what was conceived to be the greatest extent of Davidic suzerainty under David and Solomon. The description in 1:4 is similar to several such descriptions, which differ from one another, usually in minor ways (Deut 1:7; 11:24; Josh 9:1; 10:40; 11:16; 12:7–8).28
The other way concerns the boundary of the Jordan River. The Jordan is often thought of as a natural boundary, a concept greatly reinforced by the eastern boundary of the modern state of Israel. The modern boundary was determined at the Conference of Versailles following World War I as part of the British Mandate in Palestine. The conference mapmakers based their work on the deuteronomistic conception. This boundary was based on the system of Assyrian provinces in Palestine. It is not surprising that the two known instances of treating the Jordan as a political boundary should represent state-level determinations and have nothing to do with the people in the area themselves, who rarely if ever have treated the Jordan as a boundary. Typically, those who held or inhabited one side of the Jordan at any point held the other side as well. The fact that during most of a history of six hundred years or more, including the time of Josiah, “Israel” held land on both sides of the Jordan is quite in line with regional custom. That the tribe of Manasseh was conceived as having been divided by the deuteronomistic boundary makes the point even clearer.
Just as the first speech in the opening of Joshua refers immediately to the crossing of the Jordan as the archetypal boundary crossing, the second speech refers directly to the crossing. Joshua gives orders through his “officers.” The Hebrew term שׁטרים (šōṭĕrîm) means “scribes” and is a clear indication of the organized, if not bureaucratic, character of their office and the monarchic character of the narrative’s context. The order is for the people to use the following three days to prepare provisions for crossing the Jordan and campaigning on the other side. The three days represent the time Israelite spies were concealed in Jericho, as part of the narrative framing and contextualizing of the crossing of the Jordan during Passover.
The third exchange, which equals the first in length, addresses head-on the closest thing to an internal division that the book of Joshua admits: the two and a half tribes who hold land to the east rather than to the west of the Jordan. The theme of this exchange is the obedience of the two and a half tribes. The ones whose loyalty might most be in question, since they already possess their lands and are separated by the Jordan, show themselves to be model followers of Joshua, to the point of avowing the death penalty for disobedience. There is an ironic element to their protestation, since it looks forward to the deuteronomistic close of the book of Joshua. There the same two and a half tribes appear to commit a dire transgression of the first law of Moses, prohibiting more than one altar by building an altar in the territory of Manasseh on the west bank of the Jordan, before the site of the single shrine prescribed by Moses had been settled upon. This apparent transgression leaves the two and a half tribes open to the charge of disloyalty, and the rest of the tribes prepare to make war against them, until the misunderstanding is cleared up. Thus the deuteronomistic composer of the book of Joshua frames the whole with a narrative defusing of the issue of potential “tribal” disloyalty.


1. Most modern societies have a strong democratic and republican ethos, and the embodiment of a cause in a single individual can become complex and subtle. The constant turnover in officeholders and in leaders of political parties at all levels reflects this ethos. Moreover, the causes that are important to most Americans do not look like agrarian guerrilla causes. In our diverse and pluralistic society, causes are often deliberately designed more or less to overarch significant differences among people. The broad evangelical movement in American Protestantism provides an excellent example of a typical American pattern. For a hundred and fifty years or more, it has encompassed a great diversity of denominations and produced a multiplicity of leaders, at the same time standing for an identifiable alternative form of spirituality. Leaders recognized as embodiments of causes with national scope might include Susan B. Anthony, Mary Baker Eddy, Martin Luther King, Jr., Barry Goldwater, Gloria Steinem, Ralph Nader, and Billy Graham. Innumerable parallels exist for regional and local causes. Leaders have the ability to sharpen one set of distinctions in order to neutralize and incorporate all the other many distinctions that mark our lives. This realization invites us to reflect on the diversity of forces and interests represented by Joshua, even though his biblical portrait is inevitably one dimensional. It also bears on the role of the minister, who as leader frequently is challenged to embody both the congregation’s diversity and its sense of common purpose.

2. In the Gospel of Mark, the story of Jesus begins, like the story of Joshua, with a commissioning. God commissions Jesus, like Joshua, to embody his “nation” as the monarch. This notion did not originate with Mark. It represents the subjects’ usual sense of their monarch, not just in ancient Israel, but in agrarian societies in general. It also represents part of the meaning of such notions as being “in Christ” or “the body of Christ,” which occur frequently, especially in the letters of Paul, the earliest-known Christian writings. Although the meaning of such notions is not exhausted by their sociopolitical origin, it is worth remembering that they do not begin with a vague or mystical experience, but parallel concrete experience, in this instance the experience of a collective or social identity “in” the monarch. This dimension of being “in” Christ suggests a collective experience that can be added to the necessary individualistic feeling or understanding of the phrase.

Robert B. Coote, “The Book of Joshua,” in New Interpreter’s Bible, ed. Leander E. Keck, vol. 2 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994–2004), 583–587.

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Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, May 14 2015 11:07 AM

Inheriting the LandA Commentary on the Book of Joshua by E. John Hamlin is also a very good one.


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