The book of Joshua begins immediately with Moses’ disciple, Joshua, whom he laid his hands on. The anointing of the Spirit on Joshua means that he is now empowered to lead Israel to conquer Canaan.
What is interesting is the parallel which Adam Clarke makes between the layout of the Old Testament after the Pentateuch. Where the Pentateuch essentially is a make-up of the gospel truth, the events in the book of Joshua are akin to the book of Acts: the fulfillment of what has been accomplished. In the same way that the Passover and the Exodus are the symbolic fulfillment of Christ on the cross, Israel has not entered Canaan by the end of Deuteronomy. However, this reality is initially fulfilled in the book of Joshua, just as the reality of New Creation is made more real with the first steps of the apostles in Luke’s second book. Where the church of the Old Testament is firmly established within the national realms of the land, the church of the New Testament is no longer land-bound as the Spirit is given to both Israelites and Gentiles alike, and all are empowered just as Jonah was (but not until after he exited the fish after three days and three nights, signifying that the missional victory occurs after the death and resurrection and ascension of Christ).
“The Acts of the Apostles gives an account of the actual establishment of that Church, according to the predictions and promises of its great founder. Thus, then, the Pentateuch bears as pointed a relation to the Gospels as the Book of Joshua does to the Acts of the Apostles. And we might, with great appearance of probability, carry this analogy yet farther, and show that the writings of several of the Prophets bear as strict a relation to the Apostolical Epistles, as the Books of Ezekiel and Daniel do to the Apocalypse. On this very ground of analogy Christ obviously founded the Christian Church; hence he had his twelve disciples, from whom the Christian Church was to spring, as the Jewish Church or twelve tribes sprang from the twelve sons of Jacob. He had his seventy or seventy-two disciples, in reference to the seventy-two elders, six chosen out of each of the twelve tribes, who were united with Moses and Aaron in the administration of justice, etc., among the people. Christ united in his person the characters both of Moses and Aaron, or legislator and high priest; hence he ever considers himself, and is considered by his apostles and followers, the same in the Christian Church that Moses and Aaron were in the Jewish. As a rite of initiation into his Church, he instituted baptism in the place of circumcision, both being types of the purification of the heart and holiness of life; and as a rite of establishment and confirmation, the holy eucharist in place of the paschal lamb, both being intended to commemorate the atonement made to God for the sins of the people. The analogies are so abundant, and indeed universal, that time would fail to enumerate them. On this very principle it would be a matter of high utility to read these Old Testament and the New Testament books together, as they reflect a strong and mutual light on each other, bear the most decided testimony to the words and truth of prophecy, and show the ample fulfillment of all the ancient and gracious designs of God…”
The danger with Clarke’s last words is how many misinterpret the understanding of the OT and the NT shedding “mutual light on each other”. This is where the notorious “the NT is in the OT concealed; the OT is in the NT revealed” is brandished as a hermeneutical truth. However, there is far more nuance behind Clarke’s message as the context shows – the Old Testament saints knew clearly what these shadows pointed towards. They did not have mere faith in shadows, as if these shadows “imputed” upon them the real faith in Christ that we have (this line of logic allegedly leads to them not actually knowing Christ – rather, they only knew what pointed to Christ).
From Abraham’s expectation of the sacrificial lamb to come in the place of his son Isaac in Genesis 22 which in itself is a type of the Father’s sacrifice of the Son of God, the continual focus and refrain of this book of Joshua akin to the book of Acts is Yeshua. Yeshua is the victorious King; He will achieve the true success behind our evangelism. Although it seems that this truth in the OT is hidden until the NT, there are two particular points of contention against this notorious view. Firstly, voiced by Barnabas in his epistle:
“And Moses spake unto them, saying, “When any one of you is bitten, let him come to the serpent placed on the pole; and let him hope and believe, that even though dead, it is able to give him life, and immediately he shall be restored.”1619 And they did so. Thou hast in this also [an indication of] the glory of Jesus; for in Him and to Him are all things. What, again, says Moses to Jesus (Joshua) the son of Nave, when he gave him1621 this name, as being a prophet, with this view only, that all the people might hear that the Father would reveal all things concerning His Son Jesus to the son of Nave? This name then being given him when he sent him to spy out the land, he said, “Take a book into thy hands, and write what the Lord declares, that the Son of God will in the last days cut off from the roots all the house of Amalek.” Behold again: Jesus who was manifested, both by type and in the flesh, is not the Son of man, but the Son of God. Since, therefore, they were to say that Christ was the son of David, fearing and understanding the error of the wicked, he saith, “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.” And again, thus saith Isaiah, “The Lord said to Christ, my Lord, whose right hand I have holden,1628 that the nations should yield obedience before Him; and I will break in pieces the strength of kings.” Behold how David calleth Him Lord and the Son of God.”
The naming of Hoshea to Joshua is not mere artistic license on Moses’ behalf; it is a prophetic statement which Moses made by the prompting of the Spirit that Yeshua will take Israel to Canaan; that Jesus will take the church to New Creation. Barnabas’ quoting of David’s Psalm 110 is immediately connecting his conscious faith in the Trinity to Moses’ renaming of Hoshea to Joshua, claiming the clarity of their expression in telling the Israelites about the typology of Christ in the events occurring in the Pentateuch and beyond.
As a side point of interest, the ancient Hebrew language (which no doubt these Israelites communicated in) seems to display more gospel truth than contemporary orthodox beliefs allow: the sign of nun is the ancient portrayal of the letter נ (nun) – undoubtedly the image of a man’s seed. Furthermore, the meaning of this character is “continue, heir, son”. Can one deny that Yeshua, the son of the Seed, is more than a pale imitation of taking us back to the protoevangelium of Genesis 3:15 which all the Israelites are looking forward to? With this context in mind, let us turn to Joshua and understand the depths of gospel truth already present and understood from the foundation of the Pentateuch.
Joshua 1-2: Yeshua, the King, the LORD, the inheritor of all creation
Jos 1:1-18 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.
In Hebrews 1:2 and Colossians 1:16, we understand that Christ is the true heir of all creation – this creation which was created in Him, through Him, and most importantly for Him. The church effectively is part and parcel of this creation, the interactive creatures who worship and love Him in return; that this bride was planned to be created before the creation of the world that we are all predestined to be in Him (Ephesians 1:5).
Similarly, with the overarching context of understanding Joshua to represent Christ, the lesson taught is not to have faith in mere human leaders; and above all not to impute the role of Joshua onto ourselves. V.3 is a promise not strictly to Joshua, though it is true for all of us in some sense, but only true when we stand in Christ who is the real inheritor of that promise as our firstfruit and our eldest brother and co-heir.
(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. (6) Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. (7) Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. (8) This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
Thus, the truths of v.4-8 is to take us to the King-like role which Joshua adopts in leading Israel. The indication of v.5 is that Moses was never the true leader of Israel; the LORD was. This is to enforce the truth that Joshua could never had depended on himself; he was merely an arbiter of the truth that it is the LORD Who saves, not the type nor the shadow but the truth that Jesus alone saves. As such, even the meditations of Joshua in v.8 purposefully draws us back to Deuteronomy 17:18-20 which in itself is the obedience of the perfect king. Although it is indeed true that we will obtain present blessings by obeying v.8, the eschatological and universal blessing comes firstly through Christ’s redemption and thus the blessings thereafter are imputed to us after belief in his monergistic salvific efforts.
(9) Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (10) And Joshua commanded the officers of the people, (11) “Pass through the midst of the camp and command the people, ‘Prepare your provisions, for within three days you are to pass over this Jordan to go in to take possession of the land that the LORD your God is giving you to possess.'” (12) And to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh Joshua said, (13) “Remember the word that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, saying, ‘The LORD your God is providing you a place of rest and will give you this land.’ (14) Your wives, your little ones, and your livestock shall remain in the land that Moses gave you beyond the Jordan, but all the men of valor among you shall pass over armed before your brothers and shall help them, (15) until the LORD gives rest to your brothers as he has to you, and they also take possession of the land that the LORD your God is giving them. Then you shall return to the land of your possession and shall possess it, the land that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you beyond the Jordan toward the sunrise.”
Moving from the focus of Yeshua, the son of the Seed – the true inheritor of all creation – to His role as the king of Israel, we quickly complement these ideas with v.9-15 which speaks of the victory after three days (v.11), the symbolic number of Christ’s resurrection on the third day, the sign of Jonah. Thus also, the oath and engagement made in Numbers 32 is finally fulfilled symbolically after the third day, as the Reubenites, Gadites and half-tribe of Manasseh will finally obtain their prized possession toward the sunrise, a victorious moment shining towards the Day of resurrection. And so chapter 1 ends with the LORD re-iterating that Joshua’s victory is through the LORD alone; we look to Joshua as an imitation of looking to Christ – it isn’t Joshua but it is the true Yeshua who brought us victory.
(16) And they answered Joshua, “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. (17) Just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so we will obey you. Only may the LORD your God be with you, as he was with Moses! (18) Whoever rebels against your commandment and disobeys your words, whatever you command him, shall be put to death. Only be strong and courageous.”
Jos 2:1-24 And Joshua the son of Nun sent two men secretly from Shittim as spies, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” And they went and came into the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab and lodged there. (2) And it was told to the king of Jericho, “Behold, men of Israel have come here tonight to search out the land.” (3) Then the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, saying, “Bring out the men who have come to you, who entered your house, for they have come to search out all the land.” (4) But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. And she said, “True, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. (5) And when the gate was about to be closed at dark, the men went out. I do not know where the men went. Pursue them quickly, for you will overtake them.” (6) But she had brought them up to the roof and hid them with the stalks of flax that she had laid in order on the roof. (7) So the men pursued after them on the way to the Jordan as far as the fords. And the gate was shut as soon as the pursuers had gone out. (8) Before the men lay down, she came up to them on the roof (9) and said to the men, “I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. (10) For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. (11) And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the LORD your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. (12) Now then, please swear to me by the LORD that, as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father’s house, and give me a sure sign (13) that you will save alive my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.”
The Faith of Rahab
The faith of Rahab has always been a subject of debate for many Christians; what does it mean for a Gentile to convert to Christianity? She is not the first of her kind, for a mixed multitude went up from Egypt (Exodus 12:38) implying that many Egyptians also came to believe in the true God. However, she is the first of her kind to vocalize with clarity how powerful Yahweh has been witnessing to the neighbouring nations through Israel. Chapter 2v.1-13 displays Israel’s role as the holy priesthood nation, and the effectiveness of this evangelism to the point of prompting Rahab to understand three very important aspects of this faith:
(1) Hospitality to those persecuted for the glory of Christ
(2) Praying for the salvation of one’s family and kin (c.f. v.13 – “…and all who belong to them…”)
(3) Clarity of faith in the God who saves – a systematic recounting of what the LORD had done for Israel, in many ways shaming the Israelites of their past disobediences and corruptions in the wilderness in the book of Numbers.
(14) And the men said to her, “Our life for yours even to death! If you do not tell this business of ours, then when the LORD gives us the land we will deal kindly and faithfully with you.” (15) Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was built into the city wall, so that she lived in the wall. (16) And she said to them, “Go into the hills, or the pursuers will encounter you, and hide there three days until the pursuers have returned. Then afterward you may go your way.” (17) The men said to her, “We will be guiltless with respect to this oath of yours that you have made us swear. (18) Behold, when we come into the land, you shall tie this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and you shall gather into your house your father and mother, your brothers, and all your father’s household. (19) Then if anyone goes out of the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we shall be guiltless. But if a hand is laid on anyone who is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head. (20) But if you tell this business of ours, then we shall be guiltless with respect to your oath that you have made us swear.”
The Scarlet Cord
The “infamous” scarlet cord has also caused intense discussions in evangelical camps concerning the legitimacy of Alexandrian methods of interpretation. What justifies the following great church fathers in immediately applying the scarlet cord to the blood of Christ?
1st Epistle of Clement to Corinthians, chapter XII:
On account of her faith and hospitality, Rahab the harlot was saved. For when spies were sent by Joshua, the son of Nun, to Jericho, the king of the country ascertained that they were come to spy out their land, and sent men to seize them, in order that, when taken, they might be put to death. But the hospitable Rahab receiving them, concealed them on the roof of her house under some stalks of flax. And when the men sent by the king arrived and said “There came men unto thee who are to spy out our land; bring them forth, for so the king commands,” she answered them, “The two men whom ye seek came unto me, but quickly departed again and are gone,” thus not discovering the spies to them. Then she said to the men, “I know assuredly that the Lord your God hath given you this city, for the fear and dread of you have fallen on its inhabitants. When therefore ye shall have taken it, keep ye me and the house of my father in safety.” And they said to her, “It shall be as thou hast spoken to us. As soon, therefore, as thou knowest that we are at hand, thou shall gather all thy family under thy roof, and they shall be preserved, but all that are found outside of thy dwelling shall perish.” Moreover, they gave her a sign to this effect, that she should hang forth from her house a scarlet thread. And thus they made it manifest that redemption should flow through the blood of the Lord to all them that believe and hope in God.54 Ye see, beloved, that there was not only faith, but prophecy, in this woman.
Justin Martyr’s “Dialogue with Trypho” chapter CXI
And as the blood of the passover saved those who were in Egypt, so also the blood of Christ will deliver from death those who have believed. Would God, then, have been deceived if this sign had not been above the doors? I do not say that; but I affirm that He announced beforehand the future salvation for the human race through the blood of Christ. For the sign of the scarlet thread, which the spies, sent to Jericho by Joshua, son of Nave (Nun), gave to Rahab the harlot, telling her to bind it to the window through which she let them down to escape from their enemies, also manifested the symbol of the blood of Christ, by which those who were at one time harlots and unrighteous persons out of all nations are saved, receiving remission of sins, and continuing no longer in sin.
Irenaeus’ “Against Heresies” Book IV chapter XX
And when the entire city in which she lived fell to ruins at the sounding of the seven trumpets, Rahab the harlot was preserved, when all was over [in ultimis], together with all her house, through faith of the scarlet sign; as the Lord also declared to those who did not receive His advent,—the Pharisees, no doubt, nullify the sign of the scarlet thread, which meant the passover, and the redemption and exodus of the people from Egypt,—when He said, “The publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of heaven before you.”
Many contemporary exegetes say that they are eisegetically reading gospel truths into Old Testament texts which inherently do not speak of Jesus Christ. However, the context of the verses surrounding the cord, especially v.19, indicate that the symbolism behind the cord is an extremely weighty matter. Though the cord itself, and the colour, may not necessarily have to relate to Christ’s blood, the theme of Christ as King, Christ as Saviour and Christ as Sacrifice (on the third day) is already present in the first two chapters of Joshua. The writer of Joshua thus presents these truths in such a way that the scarlet cord is taken symbolically by the two spies and Rahab as a representation of what is at stake – Christ, or the world; which takes them logically to speak of the blood being on our hands when we do not fulfill the duty of the faithful Christian (Ezekiel 23:45).
(21) And she said, “According to your words, so be it.” Then she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window. (22) They departed and went into the hills and remained there three days until the pursuers returned, and the pursuers searched all along the way and found nothing. (23) Then the two men returned. They came down from the hills and passed over and came to Joshua the son of Nun, and they told him all that had happened to them. (24) And they said to Joshua, “Truly the LORD has given all the land into our hands. And also, all the inhabitants of the land melt away because of us.”
Chapter 2 ends on an interesting omission – what are the names of these two men? Who are these two spies? They are not mentioned by name in chapter 2 and indirectly Rahab has taken the attention of this portion of the book of Joshua. Her faith, like the unspoken faith of the Egyptians and Joseph’s interracial half-tribe, is a type of things to come – the universal salvation where Gentiles shame the Israelites. Rahab’s unswerving faith is fresh honey to the ears of these spies who no doubt have been taught daily the sins of their fathers – only to witness a foreigner speaking the truth of the gospel with conviction and with such belief! V.21 – “according to your words, so be it” – such trust akin to the faith of the centurion in Matthew 8:9! So we begin to taste and witness by the end of this chapter what we also witnessed in the book of Acts – that the foreign nations, that the Gentiles, are beginning to melt away at the confrontation of the LORD – whether by the softening of their hearts or by their eventual destruction at Christ’s second coming when all of His enemies shall truly and literally melt away before Him.