Tag Archives: promised land

Genesis 1:2b – Eretz as Planet Earth or Land

Genesis 1:2 (ESV) — 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.


Last week we explored the meaning of “without form and void”.

  • We now need to deal with exactly what was formless and void.
  • We have two choices – planet earth or the land.
  • Not surprisingly there are some differences of opinion.





Planet Earth:

Often, verse 2 is understood as describing planet earth covered with water.

  • Gordon Wenham says “eretz” in verse 2 “describes the state of the earth [as in planet] before the first divine command”.
  • Waltke agrees and says “eretz” in verse 2 is “what we would call the planet”.


In other words, there is no land present at all.

  • The assumption is that all the land on the entire planet is covered with water.


James Boice embraces this view and provides the below graphic:





The text doesn’t actually say earth is covered with water.

  • This is assumed based on the 3rd day of creation description – about which there is disagreement.
  • And if Genesis 1:1 is about the creation of the universe, then land is present.



But given the contextual considerations of Genesis 1 and 2 and the Pentatuech…

  • Some say “eretz” means the land from a person’s perspective, not planet earth.
  • Genesis 1:2, then, is actually distinguishing between land and water.


In fact, Kenneth Mathews says “eretz” in verse 2 is “the ‘land’ of Israel’s habitation.”

  • In other words, what is covered with water is a specific piece of land – Israel’s land.


He goes on to say:

“The recurring motifs of ‘land’ and ‘blessing’ introduced in 1:1–2:3 are thematic fixtures in the patriarchal narratives and the entire Pentateuch. For Israel the land was God’s good gift that he prepared for his people to possess. Creation prepared God’s good ‘land/ earth,’ which was for man to enjoy (1:10, 12, 31) and for Israel to possess” – Kenneth Mathews.


In other words, taking into consideration the focus of the Pentateuch, the “eretz” has to be land, specifically Israel’s land.

  • And God’s preparation of this land for habitation involved the waters that were on, part of, or up against such this land.
  • More on this next week, and when we get to day 3.


John Walton’s Take:

He appears to take the planet earth view, but from a functional perspective not a material one.


John Sailhamer’s Take:

Sailhamer, like Mathews, says the answer is to be found in a contextual consideration of Genesis.

  • “Throughout Genesis 1, the term eretz is used to denote ‘the dry land,’ as opposed to a body of water” – John Sailhamer.
  • He suggests, then, that verse 2 is referring to “the land” as opposed to the waters around it.


In other words, “eretz” is used to distinguish between the water and the land throughout Genesis 1 and 2.

  • It is not used to describe the totality of planet earth – sky, water and land.


Other verses make this distinction as well.

  • 1:11 – “Let the ‘eretz’ sprout vegetation…” – can’t be global earth (sky, water, land), must be specifically land since most of earth is water and sky doesn’t “sprout vegetation”.
  • 1:12 – “The ‘eretz’ brought forth vegetation…” – same.


And looking at Genesis 2 we see the same meaning of “eretz”.

  • “The [eretz] land is the dry ground where the man and the woman were to dwell when they were created” – John Sailhamer.
  • The “eretz” is not the totality of planet earth – sky, water, land.


Exodus and Deuteronomy also demonstrate this distinction.

  • Exodus 20:4 (ESV) — 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth [eretz] beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
  • Deuteronomy 33:13–16 (ESV) — 13 And of Joseph he said, “Blessed by the Lord be his land [eretz], with the choicest gifts of heaven above, and of the deep that crouches beneath
  • As with Genesis, eretz is not the globe because of the distinctions made between heaven and water.


For these reasons Sailhamer asserts:

“The usual meaning of eretz is simply ‘the land’ and not ‘the earth’ as in most English translations. For the most part, it refers to a specific stretch of land in a local, geographical, or political sense. Often it means simply ‘the ground’ upon which one stands” – John Sailhamer.


Sailhamer, like Mathews, also believes he can answer the following question.

  • What “specific stretch of land”?


Eretz as The Promised Land:

Sailhamer argues the referent of “eretz” is the Promised Land.

  • “…Most often in Genesis and throughout the Pentateuch the term eretz refers to the promised land” – John Sailhamer.
  • He says there are at least four reasons to understand “eretz” in Genesis 1 as the Promised Land.


(1) Garden of Eden Implication

  • If Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are about the same creation event, an important implication can be deduced.
  • First, Genesis 2 is clearly about the “eretz” as the Garden of Eden not global earth.
  • Therefore if Genesis 1 is the same creation as Genesis 2, it is also about “eretz” as the Garden of Eden – i.e. the Promised Land.
  • “Since chapter 2 is clearly an account of God’s preparing the garden of Eden as man’s dwelling place, chapter 1 must also be about God’s preparing the garden” – John Sailhamer.


(2) Location of Babylon Implication

  • Genesis 11:1–2 & 9 (NASB95) — 1 Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words. 2 It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there…Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth.


Shinar is “a plain in the lower Euphrates-Tigris system, from modern Baghdad to the Persian Gulf” – Logos 5.

  • And Babel, says Sailhamer, is Hebrew for Babylon.
  • So here we have a people that speak the same language who journeyed east towards the Euphrates-Tigris rivers system and built a tower in Babylon.
  • Is this describing the global earth and its entire people, or the people dwelling in the “eretz” west of Babylon?
  • Sailhamer says, “It seems clear from this text that the author did not understand ‘the land’ in Genesis 11:1 as ‘the whole earth.’ Rather, it was simply the region west of Babylon” – John Sailhamer.


So what?

  • Question – if one traveled East from Eden where would one end up?
    • Answer – Babylon.
    • Genesis 2:14 (ESV) — 14 And the name of the third river is the Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.
    • Genesis 3:24 (ESV) — 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.
    • Genesis 4:16 (ESV) — 16 Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

“This implicit geography within these early narratives locates the promised land centrally and sees movement away from it as ‘eastward’ and away from God’s presence, to Babylon. It is thus understood within the narratives that ‘the land’ is in fact the promised land” – John Sailhamer.


BTW – When Israel was exiled, where were they sent? East.

  • And what left the Temple? God’s presence.
  • Curiously, what direction did Abraham come from to enter into the Promised Land? The east.


BTW 2 – Sailhamer makes an interesting observation at this point.

  • Genesis 3:24 tells us that God placed an angelat the east of the garden”.
  • We are later told, two times, that an Israelite traveling west to the Promised Land encountered an angel/theophany.


Jacob encounters an angel and a theophany as he travels west into the Promised Land.

  • Genesis 31:3 (ESV) — 3 Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land [eretz] of your fathers and to your kindred, and I will be with you.”
  • Genesis 32:1 (ESV) — 1 Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him.
  • Genesis 32:24 (ESV) — 24 And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day.


Joshua encounters the Divine Warrior as he travels west into the Promised Land.

  • Joshua 5:13–14 (ESV) — 13 When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” 14 And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth [eretz] and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?”


(3) Central Theme of Pentateuch is Covenant and Promised Land

  • Genesis 12:1–2 (ESV) — 1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land [eretz] that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.
  • Deuteronomy 1:8 (ESV) — 8 See, I have set the land [eretz] before you. Go in and take possession of the land [eretz] that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give to them and to their offspring after them.’

“The close ties between the creation narratives in Genesis and the narratives which focus specifically on the covenant suggest they are all concerned with the same general theme: God’s gift of the land” – John Sailhamer.


(4) Other OT Writers Connect Genesis 1 with the Promised Land

  • Jeremiah 27:5–6 (ESV) — 5 “It is I who by my great power and my outstretched arm have made the earth [eretz], with the men and animals that are on the earth [eretz], and I give it to whomever it seems right to me. 6 Now I have given all these lands [eretz] into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, my servant, and I have given him also the beasts of the field to serve him.
  • Verse 5 is clearly echoing Genesis 1 creation language and is talking about the eretz.
  • Verse 6 makes clear that the eretz is the Promised Land that God is taking from the Israelites and giving to Nebuchadnezzar.

“There is no thought in Jeremiah’s words that God was about to give the ‘whole earth’ to Nebuchadnezzar. The very next verse [verse 6] says that God was about to give only Judah’s land and the lands of her neighbors into the hands of the Babylonian king” – John Sailhamer.


And of course our Jeremiah text from last week.

  • Jeremiah 4:23–26 (ESV) — 23 I looked on the earth [eretz], and behold, it was without form and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light. 24 I looked on the mountains, and behold, they were quaking, and all the hills moved to and fro. 25 I looked, and behold, there was no man, and all the birds of the air had fled. 26 I looked, and behold, the fruitful land was a desert, and all its cities were laid in ruins before the Lord, before his fierce anger.


This is also evident in the “return to Eden” texts:

  • Isaiah 51:3 (ESV) — 3 For the Lord comforts Zion; he comforts all her waste places and makes her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song.
  • Ezekiel 36:35–36 (ESV) — 35 And they will say, ‘This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden, and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited.’ 36 Then the nations that are left all around you shall know that I am the Lord; I have rebuilt the ruined places and replanted that which was desolate. I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it.
  • Joel 2:3 (ESV) — 3 Fire devours before them, and behind them a flame burns. The land is like the garden of Eden before them, but behind them a desolate wilderness, and nothing escapes them.


Sailhamer also argues that the “return to Eden” texts demonstrate that land=Eden=Promised Land?

  • His reason is found in Genesis 2:8.
  • Genesis 2:8 (ESV) — 8 And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.
  • Was Eden the garden or was the garden in Eden?
  • What is Eden, then? Sailhamer would say the Promised Land.


Sailhamer’s graphic describing exactly what the “eretz” in Genesis 1:2 is referring to:



BTW – if the “eretz” is the Promised Land, what are the waters?

  • More on this later.



Joshua 6: 1-14 – Military Strategy or Faith Strategy

Last week we dealt with the dilemma of God-sanctioned war.

  • We saw that to fairly deal with this dilemma we had to –
    • Understand character of Yahweh as taught OT.
    • Understand context of conquest – judgment and one-time event were two examples given.



The remaining chapters in Joshua are organized as follows (Bruce Waltke):

  • Giving/Taking the Land – 6-12
  • Alotting the Land – 13-21
  • Retaining the Land – 22-24


From this, we see that the land is of central importance to the Book of Joshua.

  • For this reason, we need to take a quick look a couple of important things the land represented.





(1) The first is that it is a fulfillment of God’s covenant and promises to Abraham and Moses.

  • Genesis 15:18–21 (ESV) — 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, 19 the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.”
  • Genesis 17:7–8 (ESV) — 7 And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8 And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”
  • Joshua 1:3 (ESV) — 3 Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses.


An important offshoot of this is that God has securely located promise fulfillment in the physical – creation.

  • Unlike Israel’s neighbors who saw the “spiritual” as the bee’s knees.


We saw this in our series on resurrection.

  • People, nation and land were valued above some spiritual existence.
  • The Kingdom of God was to culminate in a physical existence under the Messiah’s reign, not a spiritual existence.
  • Eternal life is a physical life “in the age to come”; heaven is temporary.


(2) The second is that the giving of the Promised Land marked out huge move in redemption history from chaos to order.

“Israel’s crossing of the Jordan symbolically marks their transition out of the hostile, precarious, and chaotic wilderness [and slavery]. The moment of crossing into the good land drastically revises Israel’s being (cf. Josh. 23:15–16). Leonard L. Thompson says, “ ‘Land’ becomes a cipher [representation] for a total social order. The move into the Land is nothing short of that creative change from chaos to ordered cosmos” – Bruce Waltke.


This is seen in a number of ways.

  • The transition from God’s provision via manna to provision via the provisions of Promised Land itself – Sam Schultz.
  • God’s control of the “chaotic” waters of the Jordan that enabled entry into the Promised Land.
  • The appearance of the Divine Warrior to Joshua.
    • God was behind the conquest and the giving of the land.
    • His work enabled the Israelites’ taking of the land.
  • The coming allotment of the land to all the tribes of Israel.
  • And, of course, event after event in Israel’s history, culminating in Jesus Christ – the Ultimate Order.


A final thought on the Land:

“The land promises are fulfilled several times but have never been consummated. God fulfills the promises through Joshua (e.g., Josh. 21:43–45) but not completely (e.g., Josh. 13:1–7); he fulfills them more completely through David and Solomon (1 Kings 4:20–25; Neh. 9:8) but not consummately (see Ps. 95:11). There still remains a consummation of the Sworn Land for the people of God (Heb. 4:6–8; 11:39–40)” – Bruce Waltke





The Defense:

Joshua 6:1 (ESV) — 1 Now Jericho was shut up inside and outside because of the people of Israel. None went out, and none came in.


In war, any warrior worth his salt bristles at the idea of taking a defensive over an offensive posture.

  • Unless, of course, there are some very good reasons to do so.
  • This defensive posture was obviously based upon the knowledge of what Yahweh was capable of doing.


But this also presents us with a peculiar situation.

  • How are a bunch of slaves going to defeat a well-fortified and defended military outpost?
  • The Israelites are “a people unskilled in the kind of warfare that was now required” – Mark Woudstra.


The normal course of action is to lay siege and blockade.

  • Deprive them access to food and water and thus force them to surrender.
  • While at the same time building a way to access the fortress.


We see an example of this with Babylon’s siege of Jerusalem.

  • 2 Kings 25:1–3 (ESV) — 1 And in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came with all his army against Jerusalem and laid siege to it. And they built siegeworks all around it. 2 So the city was besieged till the eleventh year of King Zedekiah. 3 On the ninth day of the fourth month the famine was so severe in the city that there was no food for the people of the land.
  • Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of Jerusalem lasted over two years.


Another famous example is the Roman siege of Masada.

  • The Romans built a siege ramp 375 feet high and used a battering ram to penetrate the walls.


But the Lord gives Joshua a plan that is quite different.


The Plan:

Joshua 6:2–5 (ESV) — 2 And the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor. 3 You shall march around the city, all the men of war going around the city once. Thus shall you do for six days. 4 Seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. 5 And when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, when you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout, and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and the people shall go up, everyone straight before him.”


Many believe that “the Lord” could very well be the Divine Warrior – Bruce Waltke.

  • If so, we have here the Divine Warrior drawing up the battle plans for the taking of Jericho.
  • And the plans are anything but the building of siege works and plans to blockade supplies.
  • In fact, the plans aren’t even a military strategy at all – David Howard.


What type of battle strategy is it?

  • A “ceremonial circling of the city rather than classic military tactics” – David Howard.
  • In other words, a “faith strategy” instead of a “military strategy”.


This faith strategy puts all attention on Yahweh in two ways.

  • (1) The Ark – Yahweh, represented by the ark, becomes in a sense the “siege worker” of Jericho.
    • God is symbolically present in the ark, and daily He is circling Jericho.
    • Judgment is coming and God is in the midst of it.
  • (2) Seven – The repetition of the number seven “is doubtless symbolical, recalling God’s works at creation” – Woudstra.
    • “The Lord who creates also works in the history of redemption. On the seventh day he will act on his people’s behalf” – Mark Woudstra.
  • After all, the Lord did say to Joshua, “I have given Jericho into your hand” (vs. 2).


The Orders:

Joshua 6:6–10 (ESV) So Joshua the son of Nun called the priests and said to them, “Take up the ark of the covenant and let seven priests bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the Lord.” 7 And he said to the people, “Go forward. March around the city and let the armed men pass on before the ark of the Lord.” 8 And just as Joshua had commanded the people, the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the Lord went forward, blowing the trumpets, with the ark of the covenant of the Lord following them. 9 The armed men were walking before the priests who were blowing the trumpets, and the rear guard was walking after the ark, while the trumpets blew continually. 10 But Joshua commanded the people, “You shall not shout or make your voice heard, neither shall any word go out of your mouth, until the day I tell you to shout. Then you shall shout.”


Joshua then dutifully passed on the Divine Warrior’s instructions.

  • We have no evidence that Israel balked at Joshua’s unorthodox battle plan.
  • They continued to endorse Joshua as Moses’ chosen replacement.


And it seems that Joshua understands that the Lord will be playing the primary role in the defeat of Jericho.

  • His first words to the people are, “Take up the ark of the covenant” (vs. 6).
  • In fact, in these four verses, the ark is spoken of 5 times.


Orders Carried Out:

Joshua 6:11–14 (ESV) So he caused the ark of the Lord to circle the city, going about it once. And they came into the camp and spent the night in the camp. 12 Then Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the Lord. 13 And the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the Lord walked on, and they blew the trumpets continually. And the armed men were walking before them, and the rear guard was walking after the ark of the Lord, while the trumpets blew continually. 14 And the second day they marched around the city once, and returned into the camp. So they did for six days.


Just as the Divine Warrior had commanded and Joshua had ordered, the warriors and priests of Israel implemented the unorthodox plan.

  • And again, the ark is spoken of 4 times in just four verses.
  • There is no doubt that God is the “siege-worker” of this “faith strategy”.


Summary of Joshua 6:1-14:

“We cannot help noticing the strangeness of Yahweh’s method: armed men, seven priests blowing rams’ horns, the ark, the rear guard, such was the caravan that circled Jericho each day and seven times on the seventh day. But, as at the crossing of the Jordan, it is the ark of Yahweh that holds centre stage” – Dale Davis.


This teaches us:

  • 2 Corinthians 4:7 (ESV) — 7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.


Additionally we can pull an interesting point of application out of this text – Silence.

  • Joshua 6:10 (ESV) — 10 But Joshua commanded the people, “You shall not shout or make your voice heard, neither shall any word go out of your mouth, until the day I tell you to shout. Then you shall shout.”
  • For six days they circle Jericho in silence!
  • And presumably this was made all the more difficult by the teasing reigned down from the walls of Jericho by the Canaanites – James Boice.
    • Though scared at first, by the third or fourth day they must have been puzzled and emboldened.


What is this all about?

  • Be quiet before the Lord and let God speak – Boice.
  • Psalm 62:1 (ESV) — 1 For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.
  • Habakkuk 2:20 (ESV) — 20 But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.”


Joshua 1:1-5 – Promotion and Promise

Joshua 1:1–6 (ESV) — 1 After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, 2 “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. 3 Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. 4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory. 5 No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.


In our text today, we see both the promotion of Joshua and a promise to him from God.

  • I want to deal with each separately.
  • But first, I want us to get a quick glimpse of who Joshua is.


Introduction – Who is Joshua?

A word about the name “Joshua”.

  • Like many OT personalities, Joshua’s name was changed.
  • In his case, his name “Hoshea” was changed by Moses to “Joshua” in Numbers 13:16.
  • Joshua means “Yahweh Saves”.
  • And in the LXX his name is rendered in Greek Iesous, which is Jesus’ name in the NT – David M. Howard.


1) A man of faith – he trusted in God.

  • Numbers 14 details a remarkable story.
  • People of Israel – Numbers 14:2–3 (ESV) — 2 And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! 3 Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?”
  • Joshua and CalebNumbers 14:6–9 (ESV) — 6 And Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes 7 and said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. 8 If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. 9 Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.”
  • GodNumbers 14:28–30 (ESV) — 28 Say to them, ‘As I live, declares the Lord, what you have said in my hearing I will do to you: 29 your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness, and of all your number, listed in the census from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against me, 30 not one shall come into the land where I swore that I would make you dwell, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun.


2) A warrior.

  • In Exodus 17 Joshua defeats Amalek in battle.
  • But it was a team effort.
  • As long as Moses held his arms up Joshua and the Israelites prevailed.
  • So Aaron and Hur had to help Moses keep his arms up.


3) Moses assistant.

  • Joshua accompanied Moses, only so far of course, to the top of Mt. Sinai in Exodus 24.
  • So Moses rose with his assistant Joshua…” (vs. 13).
  • In fact, it was Joshua who first heard the Israelites celebrating the creation of their golden calf as he and Moses descended Mt. Sinai.


4) A shepherd of the people.

  • Moses pleaded with God to appoint a certain type of man over Israel.
  • Numbers 27:17 (ESV) — 17 who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be as sheep that have no shepherd.”
  • God’s response, “Take Joshua the son of Nun…” (vs. 18).
  • He will be the leader and the shepherd.


5) Filled with the Spirit.

  • God goes on to tell Moses that Joshua is also “a man in whom is the Spirit” (vs. 18).


So although Joshua appears relatively little in the Pentateuch, he is clearly portrayed as a man who trusts in God.

  • So much so, in fact, that he and Caleb are singled out against all the other male Israelites as worthy to enter the promise land.
  • One can’t help but see in him a similarity to Abraham.
  • Like Abraham, Joshua trusted that God would do what He said he would do in spite of overwhelming circumstances.


As F.B. Meyer says in The Shepherd’s Psalm:

  • “Unbelief puts circumstances between itself and Christ, so as not to see Him…Faith puts Christ between itself and circumstances, so that it cannot see them” (Rosaria Butterfield).
  • Joshua, unlike the other Israelites, lived by the second of these two propositions.
    • “Christ” being the promised seed/offspring of Abraham and coming king from the tribe of Judah.





In the first 2 verses of our text, God outlines his promotion of Joshua.

  • His service to Moses as “Moses’ assistant” is recognized (vs. 1).
    • As we saw in our introduction, Joshua excelled in his given ministry.
    • As Greg Koukl often says, we must bloom where we are planted if we to aspire to great things for God.
    • And the reason for the promotion at this time is made known – “Moses my servant is dead” (vs. 2).
      • So the time has come both to promote Joshua and enter the promise land.
    • Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan…” (vs. 2).


This promotion is merely the culmination of the call on Joshua that shows up periodically at the end of Deuteronomy.

  • Deuteronomy 31:3 (ESV) — 3 The Lord your God himself will go over before you. He will destroy these nations before you, so that you shall dispossess them, and Joshua will go over at your head, as the Lord has spoken.
  • Deuteronomy 31:7–8 (ESV) — 7 Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land that the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall put them in possession of it. 8 It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
  • Deuteronomy 31:14 (ESV) — 14 And the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, the days approach when you must die. Call Joshua and present yourselves in the tent of meeting, that I may commission him.” And Moses and Joshua went and presented themselves in the tent of meeting.
  • Deuteronomy 31:23 (ESV) — 23 And the Lord commissioned Joshua the son of Nun and said, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall bring the people of Israel into the land that I swore to give them. I will be with you.”
  • Deuteronomy 34:9 (ESV) — 9 And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him. So the people of Israel obeyed him and did as the Lord had commanded Moses.


What is fascinating about Joshua’s call in these texts is its literary context.

  • Its historical context is easy enough to understand – after the Exodus and at the end of 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.
  • But the literary context of Joshua’s call, the way Moses/author chose to write about it, is noteworthy.


What is the literary context of Joshua’s call?

  • The “call” verses of Joshua are immediately followed by a description of doom and gloom.


CALL VERSE – Deuteronomy 31:14 (ESV) — 14 And the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, the days approach when you must die. Call Joshua and present yourselves in the tent of meeting, that I may commission him.” And Moses and Joshua went and presented themselves in the tent of meeting.

  • DOOM/GLOOMDeuteronomy 31:16 (ESV) — 16 And the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers. Then this people will rise and whore after the foreign gods among them in the land that they are entering, and they will forsake me and break my covenant that I have made with them.


CALL VERSE – Deuteronomy 31:23 (ESV) — 23 And the Lord commissioned Joshua the son of Nun and said, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall bring the people of Israel into the land that I swore to give them. I will be with you.”

  • DOOM/GLOOMDeuteronomy 31:24–27 (ESV) — 24 When Moses had finished writing the words of this law in a book to the very end, 25 Moses commanded the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, 26 “Take this Book of the Law and put it by the side of the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there for a witness against you. 27 For I know how rebellious and stubborn you are. Behold, even today while I am yet alive with you, you have been rebellious against the Lord. How much more after my death!


In each of the above cases, we see the contrast between Joshua’s positive call and the negative assessment of the Israelites’ faithfulness.

  • 31:14 – God has Moses call Joshua and commission Joshua in the tent of meeting.
    • A call and commissioning that point to God’s desire to fulfill His promises.
    • And yet in 31:16 God tells Moses that the Israelites “will forsake me and break my covenant”.
  • 31:23 – Yahweh “commissioned Joshua” and told him he will bring the people into “the land that I swore to give them”.
    • And yet in 31:24-27 Moses tells us how “rebellious and stubborn” the Levites/Israelites are.
    • In fact, he says that he expects that they will be even worse, “after my death”.


What does Moses want us to take away from this purposeful literary contrast?


I can’t help but think that at least three things are to be noticed.

  • First, is that the covenant faithfulness of God is unrelenting.
    • In spite of Israel’s disobedience, God provides and keeps.
  • Second, the presence and power of God’s grace is not exclusive to the NT.
  • Third, what is powerfully present is the distinction between the individual (Joshua) and the people.
    • In opposition to a common misconception, the individual of the OT does contain the idea of a personal relationship with God grounded in faith/trust.
    •  “The people of God are individual believers” – John Sailhamer.
    • Each individual Israelite had a responsibility to trust in God and to obey.
    • The distinction between Joshua and Israelite makes this evident.

“The collective nature of the “seed” (Israel) consists in its identification as a gathering of believers not merely for the purpose of fellowship, but more importantly, with a view to personal relationship with the “seed” and the outworking of that in each one’s individual life – John Sailhamer.





Genesis 12:7 (ESV) — 7 Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him.


Genesis 15:7 (ESV) — 7 And he said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.”


Genesis 15:13–16 (ESV) — 13 Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15 As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. 16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”


God makes known to Joshua and the Israelites that, to the glory of His name, He will give what He promised to give to Abraham – the promised land.

  • God outlines the borders of his gift in verses 3-5 (scholars argue that these boundaries were realized under the reigns of David and Solomon).
  • And then powerfully reconfirms the call and promotion of Joshua in this context of promise fulfillment.
    • No man shall be able to stand before” Joshua and God “will not leave you or forsake you” (vs. 5).
  • Joshua’s trust in God plus his exaltation by God come together to be part of the way God will bring the Israelites into the promised land.


What is interesting about the gift of God and the “stand” of Joshua is that though the land is God’s gift – a fulfillment of a promise – Joshua and the Israelites are still “to lay hold of that gift” – Dale Davis.

  • They must cross the Jordan and engage the “iniquity of the Amorites” (Gen 15:16).
  • Laying hold of God’s promises can be traumatic!


The “Now and Not Yet” of God’s gift.

  • The “giving to them” in verse 2 and the “I have given to you” in verse three teach an important truth.
  • David Howard sums it up like this:

“In one sense God was still in process of giving Israel the land. After all, Israel had not yet even crossed the Jordan River, and only the land east of the Jordan actually had been taken by Israel. Most of the land remained to be taken. But in another sense God had already given Israel the land. It is as though Israel already possessed legal title to the land (ever since Abraham’s day), but they were awaiting God’s timing for the actual possession” – David M. Howard.


This “now and not yet” illustrates the depths of the trust Abraham (and Joshua) had in God’s seed and land.

  • To trust God implies that we are to trust not only that His promises will be done but that they are already done.
  • This view of knowledge (epistemology) is completely irrational to the world.
    • In God’s economy, something promised is something done.
  • This concept is clearly fleshed out in the NT with both the “age to come” and resurrection.



  • In both the call and promotion of Joshua and the coming fulfillment of God’s land promise, we glimpse the depths of God’s covenant faithfulness.