In this essay we begin our study of the first major section of the book of Joshua, which is the account of the conquest of Canaan. The specific passage for this morning is 1:10-2:24, which tells of the preparations for the conquest.
God had commanded Joshua to “cross the Jordan,” which meant, it was time to conquer the land of Canaan (v. 2); and the Lord had encouraged Joshua by promising to be with him every step of the way (v. 5). Now Joshua had to do his part as the chosen leader of the people. He had to mobilize them for the war of conquest. So he immediately set out to make the preparations necessary to enable the people to enter Canaan.
There were three parts to Joshua’s preparations. First, we see in verses 10-11 that he instructed the people to make ready provisions for the invasion. Obviously, the idea of the conquest was not something spontaneous. In one sense they had been preparing for this day for forty years. But more specifically, Israel already had been at war. Just before the events recorded in the book of Joshua began, they had fought and defeated the nation of Midian (Num. 31:11-12). Earlier they had conquered several kingdoms, including the territory across the Jordan from Canaan, where they were encamped.
So the warriors of Israel already had their weapons at the ready; they already had trained for war insofar as training was done in those days. Indeed they already were battle hardened. And thus they were, in a general sense at least, mentally prepared for the conquest of Canaan.
They also had their chain of command in place. Notice that Joshua gave the order to prepare the food through his “officers.” Notice further that the order given by Joshua also contained a command to be ready to move out in three days.
Second, in verses 12-18 Joshua made final preparation of the troops. What we see here assumes some knowledge of Israel’s previous history, which is recorded in Numbers 31-32. After conquering the Midianites, as recorded in chapter 31, Israel was secure in what is called trans-Jordan, that is, the eastern side of the Jordan River. They were camped across the river from Jericho, and thus they were in good position for the invasion of Canaan.
It was at this point, as recorded in Numbers 32, that the leaders of the tribes of Reuben and Gad proposed that they be granted an inheritance in the land in which they were camped instead of in Canaan. They were keepers of cattle, and the land in trans-Jordan was good for cattle. Moses agreed, but only if they would send their armies into Canaan with the armies of the other tribes, and help them conquer the land. The half-tribe of Manasseh also wanted that arrangement, because they had captured Gilead, and they liked that area.
So that is the background behind what we see in Joshua 1:12-15. Joshua reminded the tribes of Reuben, Gad and half-Manasseh that their agreement with Moses included helping the other tribes to conquer Canaan. And they were quite aware of that. In verses 16-18, they not only enthusiastically committed themselves to obey Joshua’s commands in every respect, but they threatened to kill anyone who refused to obey. This demonstrated a very important principle; namely, the unity of Israel. No matter where they ultimately settled, they were one nation. Thus Joshua’s preparation of the troops was completed.
The third part of Joshua’s preparations for the invasion, as recorded in chapter two, was the sending out of two spies to explore the land and check on the attitude of the inhabitants. Joshua was especially interested in Jericho, which as we shall see, was his primary target.
As we see in verse one, the spies went to Jericho, and to avoid suspicion, they went to the house of a prostitute named Rahab. The idea was that visitors to prostitutes would not be as noticeable as those who sought other places of hospitality. But their idea didn’t work. They were noticed; and the king was informed (v. 2). So he sent men to arrest them. But Rahab hid them and lied for them, telling the king’s men that the spies already had left (vv. 3-7).
Thus with Rahab’s help, the spies escaped. But before they left, they learned what they had come to Jericho to learn. Rahab told them how her people had heard about Israel’s conquests, and that they were fearful of Israel. Indeed Rahab was so convinced that Israel would take the land, she hid the spies, and made a deal with them to save herself and her family (vv. 8-21). But Rahab did not simply seek to save herself and her family. She truly believed that Israel’s God is the true God. The second half of verse 11 is the key statement. Rahab told the spies, “The Lord your God is indeed in heaven above and on earth below.”
As the spies were leaving, they placed three conditions on Rahab in order for their deal with her to be good. The first condition was that she had to tie a crimson chord to the window out of which she lowered them to safety . That was to enable the Israelites to recognize the house (v. 18). The second condition was that she had to gather her whole family into her house. They would guarantee nothing for anyone who was not in her house (v. 19). And the third condition was, of course, that she had to keep their business in Jericho secret (v. 20). Rahab fulfilled the conditions, and we will see in chapter six that Israel kept its part of the bargain, saving all of Rahab’s family before burning the city (6:22-25).
As you may know Rahab is held in the New Testament to be an outstanding example of faith. She is listed among the heroes of the faith in Hebrews, chapter 11. James 2:25 praises her as the prime example, along with Abraham, of justification being demonstrated by works. And she is included in the genealogy of the Messiah in Matthew (Mt. 1:5-6).
Verses 22-25 conclude the section on preparations for the conquest. The spies returned and reported that they could take the land, because the inhabitants were very fearful of Israel. With that encouraging report from the spies, Joshua’s preparations for the invasion were complete. He had arranged for provisions, for troops, and for information (today we call it intelligence) that would enable them to take the land. They were ready to move into Canaan.