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Story. Chapter 1 consists of three conversations about going into Canaan to conquer the promised land:
- Verses 1-9: The Lord speaks to Joshua.
- Verses 10-11: Joshua speaks to all of Israel.
- Verses 12-18: Joshua speaks to the three trans-Jordan tribes.
Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Chapter 1 include:
Relationship to book of Joshua. The relationship of Chapter 1 to Joshua as a whole is discussed at Joshua.
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- This chapter consists of three conversations. These conversations are paralleled in chapters 22-24.
Verses 1-9: The Lord to Joshua
- Verse 1-2: The Death of Moses
The Bible Dictionary states that Moses was transfigured (see BD Moses). Indeed, the Book of Mormon notes that God played a direct role in the passing of Moses into the next life: "that he [Alma] was taken up by the Spirit, or buried by the hand of the Lord, even as Moses." (Alma 45:19) It doesn't appear clear whether he was in fact "transfigured" or if he was in some other way guided beyond the veil by God as indicated by "buried by the hand of the Lord." It was known to the Nephites, and thus must have been known to the ancient Hebrews. Note that Moses appears to have retained the keys to the gathering of Israel--those keys were given by Moses to Joseph Smith (see D&C 110), they were NOT given to Joshua. As Moses inaugurated the gathering of Israel, so too did Joseph. As Joshua led Israel out of the wilderness and into Zion, so too did Brigham Young. Conjecturally, this seems somewhat of a pattern for the founding of a dispensation.
- Verse 3
- Sole of your feet. See Deut 11:24 where this phrase is used in the promise given to Moses. This phrase is used referentially in Josh 14:9. Also, compare Gen 13:17 where God says to Abraham, "Arise, walk through the land . . . for I will give it unto thee" (see the commentary there for possible significance of walking on land).
- Tread. The word translated "tread" here is darak, and seems to be used with military connotations in Deut 33:2, Judg 20:43, Job 22:15 (cf. 28:8, Ps 91:13, and Isa 63:3). However, in Isaiah Isa 42:16 and 48:17 darak is translated "lead" and suggests a possibly different flavor of meaning here (see exegesis below).
- As I said unto Moses. See Ex 23:30-31 where God promises the land to Moses.
- Verse 3: Qualifying for the gift
- The phrase "that the sole of your foot shall tread upon" could be suggesting the military force by which Israel will take the lands of Canaan, as described in the rest of the Book of Joshua (note the military action mentioned when God promised the land to Moses in Ex 23:30-31).
- This phrase could also suggest non-trivial action needed on the part of the Israelites to possess the land, qualifying the "gifting" of the land mentioned in verses 2 and 6. For example, the feet of the Israelites have to step into the water to cross the Jordan River (Josh 3:13, 15; cf. "walk by faith" in 2 Cor 5:7), and the Israelites have to compass the city of Jericho seven times in order to obtain that land (see Josh 6:3ff). [This is indicitive of semetic tradition lasting into modern times and power associated with the number seven--when Muhammad captured Mecca he rode around the Ka'ba seven times before cleansing it of idols.] This interpretation would help motivate the exhortation of strength and courage in verse 6. (See the Ray Stedman reference/quote below for more on the faith/grace/works tension in regards to obtaining the land.)
- In Isaiah, the word darak ("tread") is translated "lead" and seems to be used in a context of faith/trust in God. (See the lexical notes above for more on this.)
- Verse 4: Geography
The land of the Hittites refers to western Anatolia (modern Turkey).
The Euphrates river has its source in the mountains of the region commonly called "Kurdistan" (modern E. Turkey/E. Anatolia) and runs down out of modern Turkey, through part of modern day Syria, and down through modern Iraq (the western border of the biblical Babylonian and Assyrian homelands). In the SE of Iraq the Euphrates joins with the Tigris river forming a short river called the "shat al-Arab" and then enters the Persian Gulf.
The wilderness referred to would have been the region between Israel/Palestine and Egypt--perhaps the Sinai Peninsula. It seems that the Israelites might have been better off traveling southwards along the E. coast of the Red Sea along the Hijaz and down into the well watered Asir/N. Yemeni mountains, a region believed to have been significant for Lehi's wanderings as well ('bountiful'). Lehi only had seven years, Israel had much longer. Perhaps the Lord did not lead them that way because it would have been lush and he wished to punish them, there is probably no way to tell.
The setting of the sun is in the west, obviously: in modern Arabic, the region of N. Africa (from Egypt to Morocco) is refered to as "al-Magrib," and when used as a country it refers specifically to Morocco (the western most country bordering the Atlantic). "Al-Magrib" simply means "the setting sun." Thus, though the "great sea toward the going down of the sun" may simply mean the western border of Palestine/Israel on the Mediteranean, it may have actually meant the Atlantic ocean. It is hard to tell how well the Israelites knew geography (i.e. did they even know the Atlantic existed?), but they did know that Egypt existed, and presumably the "going down of the sun" would have been more distant than Egypt. Certainly with the other inflated borders stretching all the way up through Syria and into Turkey then East all the way to Mesopotamia (Euphrates/Tigris river basin) it wouldn't be unreasonable to set the western border at the Atlantic. This is far from certain however.
In any case, these borders were not ever realized. Perhaps the wickedness of the people or the kings suspended this blessing: following the death of Solomon the kingdom went into decline and petty warfare. These biblical borders may be used as relgious justification by modern Zionists to justify land, though it is clear that the Lord's promises are contingent upon covenants and kept promises.
- Verse 9
- This calls to mind 1 Ne 3:7. What God has commanded, he will aid with.
Verses 10-11: Joshua to the people
- Joshua as a good soldier
After describing God's instructions to Joshua, the text immediately describes Joshua carrying out those instructions. This effectively portrays Joshua as a good soldier to God's commands.
Verses 12-18: Joshua to the trans-Jordan tribes
- Verse 18
- Put to death. Compare Alma 62:9-10 where the men of Pachus, the king-men and others would not take up arms to support their country were executed.
Points to ponder
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- Depart out of thy mouth. What does this phrase mean in this context?
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- "Given" vs. "tread." Ray Stedman suggests that although the land has been given (see v. 2), "it still needs to be possessed. Title to it is the gift of God; possession of it is the result of an obedient walk. . . . The idea is, you can have all that you will take. You can have every bit of the spiritual life that you want. You will never get any more. God will never give you more than you are ready to take. So if you are not satisfied with the degree of your real experience of victory, it is because you haven't really wanted any more. You can have all that you want."
- "Every place." Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown suggest that this does not mean "universal dominion, but only the territory comprised within the boundaries here specified" (cf. v. 4).
- Rest. See RobertC's subpage on rest. (Also used in v. 15.)
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