"Joshua: A Many-Faceted Type of Christ," by Ronald Ginther


"Joshua: A Many-Faceted Type of Christ,"

by Ronald Ginther

The Man

Joshua's name was originally Hoshea the son of Nun. Hoshua the son of Nun was born into the tribe of Ephraim (which together with Manasseh descended from Joseph who rose from the prison to being the premier of Egypt). A contemporary of Moses, Hoshua grew to manhood as a Hebrew slave in Egypt. Delivered from bondage by God's supernatural miracles and the leadership of Moses the man of God, he followed Moses, but with a difference. Unlike his rebellious, provocative, stubborn generation, he did so with sincerity, obedience, and genuine devotion. He was a many-faceted diamond in the spiritual sense, and not necessarily a "rough" or uncut one. His grandfather was Elishama, who may have been responsible for carrying the embalmed body of Joseph their tribe's founder during the forty years in the wilderness. Hoshua, then, would have helped in the loving task. By the time Moses was ready to send out spies, Joshua (renamed by Moses) had come to his attention as a godly, conscientious, valiant warrior, and he was sent out as one of the group to spy out the Promised Land of Canaan. Reporting back, the spies cried it was impossible to fight the giants in the land, and the cities were fortified to heaven. Contrasting with this negative report was that of Joshua and Caleb's. "It is an exceedingly good land, and we are well able to take and possess it!" they said. But the people refused to believe Joshua and Caleb and were utterly dismayed, whom they now wanted to stone to death. Jehovah was very angry with the faithless, cowardly spies, and so that whole generation was condemned to die in the wilderness, and the conquest of Canaan was delayed until all of them, except Caleb and Joshua, were dead.

(Hoshua) Joshua must have been forty years of age when he left Egypt in company with his fellow Israelites, for he was eighty when he finally entered the Promised Land. Eerdman's states that he was Moses's "companion" at Sinai (Ex. 24:13), and a "superintendent of the tent of meeting." He also was a military commander, for he led forces to victory against the Amalekites when they attacked the rear of the Israelite camp, and he was Moses's minister (Hebrew: "mesaret"), a position that had an official, religious function, according to Eerdman's--which meant he was not necessarily a valet who waited on Moses's physical needs, for common men-servants or even young men could do that without requiring Joshua's great gifts of leadership and military command.

Joshua the first and best James Bond

In the wilderness of Paran (Numbers 12:16 and following), Moses was instructed by God to call from the tribes a leader from each to act as spies. Joshua was the one chosen to represent the premier tribe of Ephraim, which speaks of his eminence even at this time. Ephraim was almost a nation in itself, it was so strong and held tens of thousands of fighting men. The spies were, thus, "heads of the sons of Israel" (Num. 13: 3). This was a great responsibility they were given. Joshua, whose name was Hoshea son of Nun, was named Joshua by Moses at this time. The spies had the task of infiltrating Canaan in order to gain first hand knowledge of its cities, its inhabitants, and also information on its fertility and fruitfulness. Proving his worth, his faith held firm, along with Caleb's, while the other eight spies gave a terribly damaging bad report due to fear and unbelief.

It is a most exciting account that stands on its own (Numbers 13: 25-33, 14: 1-10): "When they returned from spying out the land, at the end of forty days, they proceeded to come to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation of the sons of Israel in the wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; and they brought back word to them and to all the congregation and showed them the fruit of the land. Thus they told him, and said, 'We went in to the land where you sent us; and it certainly does flow with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. Nevertheless, the people who live in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large; and moreover, we saw the descendants of Anak there. Amalek is living in the land of the Negev and the Hittites and the Jebusites and the Amorites are living in the hill country, and the Canaanites are living by the sea and by the side of the Jordan.' Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, 'We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we shall surely overcome it.' But the men who had gone up with him said, 'We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us.' So they gave out to the sons of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, 'The land through which we have gone, in spying it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great size. There also we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim, descendants of the giant races spawned by fallen angels with human females, whose genes somehow survived the Flood, perhaps, some say, in one of the wives of Noath's sons); and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.' Then all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. And all the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, 'Would that we had died in he land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! And why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?' So they said to one another, 'Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt.' Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces in the presence of all the assembly of the congregation of the sons of Israel. And Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, of those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes; and they spoke to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, saying, 'The land which we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord is pleased with us, then He will bring us into this land, and give it to us--a land which flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord, and do not fear the people of the land, for they shall be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.' But all the congregation said to stone them with stones. Then the glory of the Lord appeared in the tent of meeting to all the sons of Israel."

With the Lord's glory blazing forth, the people soon forgot about stoning their God-appointed leaders. The upshot of the confrontation was that after Moses interceded, the Lord pardoned (he did not kill them all on the spot) but strongly rebuked and punished the people, saying, "According to the number of days which you spied out the land, forty days, for every day you shall bear your guilt a year, even forty years, and you shall know My opposition. I, the Lord, have spoken, surely this I will do to all this evil congregation who are gathered together against Me. In this wilderness they shall be destroyed, and there they shall die." As for the unfaithful eight spies, they were stricken with plague and died--a sad, ignoble end for such men after being given such a high calling from God along with the glorious role of instruments shaping the future destiny of their nation and their respective tribes!

Trustworthy Servant

Forty years had to pass before the nation was again ready, according to he Lord, for them to be led into the Promised Land. By that time Joshua was Moses's right hand man, so to speak. He had proven his worth and loyalty so well that there must have been no question that he would succeed Moses. With this retrospect as a background, we can see Joshua shining above and beyond his not only his own generation but all those he was called to lead.

The Brilliant, Godly Commander Who Didn't Repeat His Mistake

Continuing with the book of Joshua's account of him, Joshua did not waver in his obedience to the Lord just as he had not ever wavered in the past. It is not necessary here to relate the events of the book as it details the campaigns to take Jericho, Ai, then the cities of the southern confederacy, followed by the cities of the northern confederacy.

What is more to the point here is Joshua's qualities, traits, and strengths. How much did they match Christ's? How Christlike was he really? Joshua clearly misstepped in the matter of Gibeon, a Hivite city that sent emissaries craftily disguised to make the Israelites think they had journeyed a long distance when they actually lived quite close to the Israelite camp. He did not consult the Lord, it is written (Joshua 9:14-16): "So the men of Israel took some of their provisions, and did not ask for the counsel of the Lord. And Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them, to let them live; and the leaders of the congregation swore an oath to them. Anmd it came about at the end of three days after they had made a covenant with them, that they heard they were neighbors and that they were living within their land."

It was a hard lesson for Joshua. None like such a lapse of judgment, or any other, was again reported of him, however.

A Speaker of Immortal Words

Thirty years later, near the closing days of his life (Joshua 24), Joshua gathered the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and he reviewed before all the leaders and the people what God had done for them since they had come out of Egypt, delivered by the power of God after Egypt was plagued with all sorts of troubles. He continued and described how God had favored them against the Amorites (Sihon as well as Og of Bashan), then Balaam the prophet, so that his curses were turned to blessings, and later how he gave them, Jericho and the Amorites, Perizzites, Cananites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites and Jebusites, into their hand. On top of this, God gave them "a land on which you had not labored, and cities which you had not built, and you have lived in them; you re eating of vineyards and oliveyards which you did not plant." Saying this, he called them to "fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord."

Finally, he came to his famous statement, which rings down through the centuries and the millennia even to our day: "And if it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living, BUT AS FOR ME AND MY HOUSE, WE WILL SERVE THE LORD."

Shortly afer speaking these words (which are as famous as any Abraham Lincoln penned in the immortal Gettysburg Address), Joshua died, one hundred and ten years old. The book ends with a mention of how Joseph's bones, carried up from Egypt, were buried at Shechem, in the field Jacob had bought from Hamor's sons for one hundred pieces of silver. How appropriate, that the passing of this most notable descendant of Joseph should be linked with Joseph's own burial--a burial which was a sign of Joseph's enduring-to-the-last faith in God, for he had spoken in faith according to Hebrews 11, believing in the eventual possession of the land by his people--a possession that Joshua, more than any other Israelite, made possible by his obedience to God and his courage and steadfastness in the most difficult circumstances.

How does the New Testament, which is another name for the New Covenant (a name which conveys a better sense of what the new dispensation is about than a term that usually denotes a will or declaration of a deceased person regarding his or her estate) regard this very period and the period living in it? What real significance does Joshua have, as an Old Covenant man living under the law, to us who live in the New Covenant under grace?

The Apostle Paul perhaps framed the question best and answers in this wise (Galatians 3: 17-25): "What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later [after Jacob's going down to Egypt with his family], does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise. Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed [Jesus Christ] should come to whom the promise had been made. Now a mediator is not for one party only; whereas God is only one. Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law. But the Scripture has shut up all men under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor."

Joshua, then, like all of his generation and all those leading up to Jesus Christ, lived under the Law; it was his tutor, installed due to transgression and sin. The Law was set in place like a kind of schoolmaster, to lead men to grace because it brought death, not life, and never could enable men to live righteously. It was, in other words, an impossible standard for men to attain. Unable to satisfy its requirements, they were driven to the God of grace. They lived, then, in the promise of the law being fulfilled by God himself, which He promised to fulfill someday for them in the person of His Son, the Messiah.

How clear, we wonder, was this "protoevangelium"--this foreshadowing prequel of a gospel compared to the full and complete Gospel of Jesus Christ which we now possess and believe? It is hard to imagine living with a promise only, and being subject to the rigid Law of the Old Covenant, which condemned you if you broke only one part of the over six hundred laws contained in it. No one could be righteous based on the Law, so it was impossible to begin with. Not one Old Covenant saint, as Scripture says, ever attained righteousness by the Law. Not one Old Testament saint was "born again" or regenerated by the Spirit of Christ either! As Hebrews explains, Abraham himself did not know or practice the law, as he came hundreds of years before the law, so it was by faith in God he was accounted righteous by God. If only we could enter partly in to the frame of mind of the Joshua-era Israelite, we might appreciate the grace of Christ more! They did not have the Holy Spirit as a counselor to lead and guide them either. The Holy Spirit only fell upon a few select individuals, such as Moses, Joshua, David, and the prophets.

Joshua, in the Old Covenant, unable to hold to the substance but only the shadow, made righteous by his clinging to the promise of a coming Messiah, shines all the more remarkable among his wayward generation. Because of stubborn unbelief and rebellion, his whole generation fell in the wilderness, and he and Caleb alone escaped their wretched, self fate. It makes you wonder whose children they really were, as they chose continually to live like the Devil! Even Moses did not make it into the Promised Land, so in this vital sense Joshua surpassed even his teacher and mentor in obedience to God, even though we could safely say there was no greater man of God in the Old Testament period than Moses. Over and over, in the Scripture, it says that the Israelites failed and refused to trust in God. It was actually that simple. They had the opportunity to mend their ways and enjoy God's favor their entire lives, if they would only trust in Him instead of complaining, rebelling, and turning to other gods for help. Joshua trusted in God, and rose to lasting greatness. His contemporaries forsook God, and they were destroyed. Simple trust and the obedience that followed gained Joshua undying fame. Yes, Joshua's fighting men proved they were courageous and could obey orders, but they failed to pass on their inheritance in God and their children grew up heathens--proving that their fathers hadn't a true, sincere heart for God that their actions seemingly professed. How tragic this is, yet we see it happening in every generation after Joshua, and even in our own Christian churches! Has anything really changed? Are we really, with all our advantages under the New Covenant, any more faithful to God and loving toward Him than Joshua's generation?

What was Joshua's Secret?

Having said all this about the man, don't you wonder what was his secret that empowered him and kept him on track to the glorious conclusion? Perhaps, the Fifth Chapter of Joshua contains the answer, or at least a divine hint pointing to it:

"While the sons of Israel camped at Gilgal [prior to the taking of Jericho], they observed the Passover on the evening of the fourteenth day of the month on the desert plains of Jericho. And on the day after the Passover, on that very day, they ate some of the poroduce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. And the manna ceased on that day after they had eaten some of the produce of the land, so that the sons of Israel no longer had manna, but they ate some of the yield of the land of Canaan during that year. Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand, and Joshua went to him and said to him, "Are you for us or for our adversaries?" And he said, "No, rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the Lord." And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and bowed down, and said to him, "What has my Lord to say to his servant?" And the captain of the Lord's hosts said to Joshua, "Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy." And Joshua did so.'--Joshua 5

The Israelites, all the males of the generation who had been born and raised during the wilderness wanderings, had just been circumcised by Joshua, according to God's command.

They had just celebrated the Passover as well, which had been discontinued for many years of the wandering period.

At the time of the celebration, God declared to them, "Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you," and the place was called "Gilgal," consequently, which has the meaning of "stones rolled or rolling away." Joshua, having done all this and observed these events, went walking from the camp one day, as he considered Jericho in the near distance and what it may require to attack and capture this strategic city, which stood at the door of all southern and central Canaan. But where was he, emotionally and spiritually? High or low? Or somewhere in between?

I believe this man of God was low at the moment. The reasons were plain: his entire army of valiant fighting men were incapacitated, having undergone circumcision. In their condition they could not fight off a small band of raiders, much less take a great, fortified, high-walled city of Jericho.

Why had God "delayed" to command the circumcision until this critical moment? he might well have wondered as he gazed toward the enemy fortress-city.

But he had had to obey God, and now what would they do? So he walked alone on the Jericho plain, considering the situation.

All his doubts and short-comings must have assaulted his mind, threatening his faith in God with horrible failure and calamity. Yes, God had always come through for Israel in the past, but this was an entirely new situation, it seemed. They were now in the land promised to his fathers, but how weak and out of fighting-form they were, thanks to the circumcision! What on earth would they do if the king of Jericho, informed of Israel's weakness, sallied out with his chariots and mighty warriors and attacked them at Gilgal? What would they do then?

They would have to run to save their lives, would they not? Except for Caleb, only he, the commander, was still able to fight, having been circumcised along with the older generation many years before. But he was not a young man. What could he do against the whole army of Jericho?

It was then, at Joshua's lowest ebb (or at least a testing period that might have entailed vacillation in his resolve), that the true Strength and Power of Israel apppeared, the Almighty God! Joshua saw a man with a drawn sword in his hand, and he called out to him, demanding to know if the stranger was for Israel or her enemy. But that was the wrong question, Joshua was soon informed by the stranger. "No," said the armed man, "rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the Lord." Recognizing it was God in human form, had to be nothing but Jehovah God, Joshua fell to his face and bowed down. For him, in that position, before such a Presence, Jericho instantly ceased to be a problem. Its fate was sealed, since God Almighty was going to deal with Jericho!

Finally, how did God view Joshua? From first to last, it all comes down to Joshua's name, which was given him by Moses by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. "Joshua" is the same name that we translate today as Jesus, the Valiant Messiah and Son of God who came down to save us, who as Joshua before him led His people forth into the Promised Land, which for us is the New Birth, which entitles us to enter the glorious Kingdom of God as God's children and heirs of Christ.


"joshuaquestions.html">Questions for Joshua

The Emmaus Walk Home Page

Butterfly Productions Home Page

(c) 2010, Butterfly Productions, All Rights Reserved