You will find an introduction and outline of Joshua, here.
Here is a prayer from the Book of Common Worship to use before reading:
Eternal God, your wisdom is greater than our minds can attain, and your truth shows up our learning. To those who study, give curiosity, imagination, and patience enough to wait and work for insight. Help us to doubt with courage, but to hold all our doubts in the larger faith of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
I. Joshua receives his commission 1:1-18:
Verses 1-9 are God’s speech to Joshua. It links Joshua to Moses and emphasized the importance of the law. The one who leads Israel is chosen by God rather than by heredity or another method. Verses 10-18 are Joshua’s commands to the people, his officers and the two and a half tribes. The word “officers” in verse 10 also means “scribes”. This word suggests social organization and structure that some believe refers to a later period and thus suggests that the book of Joshua was written, in this form, long after the events happened. Verses 13-15 recall the story told in Deuteronomy 3:8-20. This section ends with the people pledging loyalty to Joshua.
Notice the repetition of “be strong and courageous”. Why do you think that is repeated?
II. Joshua conquest Canaan 2:1-12:24
A. 2:1-6:27 The destruction of Jericho at Passover: Notice that a significant portion of this section deals with the fall of Jericho. While we may recall the story via songs or brief reading, this section has more going on that the fall of Jericho. Cooke in his commentary draws attention to the ways this story is “but the recapitulation of the first Passover, from the saving of the Israelite firstborn to the crossing of the sea.” (Cooke, 588) “It may be difficult for a reader or preacher to hold together all at once the many interrelated motifs, themes, and plots contained in this major section of the book of Joshua. We can review them once again, one by one: Joshua’s authority; the Passover allusions and their significance; Rahab and debt remission; the priestly curators of the law of Moses; the Jordan as a boundary; obedience to God’s command; the unconditionality of Josiah’s reform, but the inclusion of indebted “Canaanites”; and the support represented in Gilgal for the house of David against opposing “tribes” and kings. The best way to relate one theme to another is to ask regarding any particular element or incident what theme or themes it contributes to, and then how it is related to Passover, recalling that Passover in the Deuteronomistic History signifies the saving of a nation of debt slaves, the populist base for Josiah’s reform.” (Cooke, 589)
Joshua 2:1-24 Rahab’s help: Commentators believe Rahab was a prostitute because her family was in debt, poverty being the most common cause for prostitution. So this is a story of outsiders, Rahab and the spies, against the insider elite. The “hills” are a traditional place of refuge for those fleeing royal power. But also notice that Rahab and the spies have an uneasy alliance and negotiate how they will work together. The flax on the roof tells us that this event occurred around Passover. Flax was harvested just before barley and the barley harvest was the time for the Passover celebration. Notice Rahab’s mention of the crossing of the sea at Passover. The phrase “inhabitants of the land” literally means “the ones who sit” referring to rulers (sitting on thrones) or the wealthy(sitting on estates). The red cord echoes the blood of the Passover lamb on the door jams in Egypt. Rahab is mentioned in Heb 11:31 and James 2:24.
Joshua 3:1-4:18 Crossing the Jordan: Recall that the Ark symbolizes God’s presence and protection and is where the law is kept. Notice how the telling of this event sounds more “liturgical” than historical. And notice how it echoes the crossing of the Jordan at the first Passover. Scholars believe Israel practiced a ritual reenactment of the crossing of the Jordan. See also Psalm 114 and Micah 6:4-5 for other allusions to Passover and the crossing of the Jordan.
Joshua 4:19-5:12 Camped at Gilgal: We do not know where Gilgal is. The word “Gilgal” means “circle”. Gilgal is also where Samuel anointed Saul king (1 Sam 11:14-15) and where Samuel anointed David king (1 Sam 13:8-14)This is when the giving of manna ended. Notice the kings react here just as Rahab said in chapter 2. Eventually circumcision was required to participate in the Passover, so commentators believe the story of circumcision was added by the Priestly writers. The phrase “a second time” (5:2) does not mean the men were circumcised twice but means more like resumed.
Joshua 5:13-15 A meeting with the Lord’s Commander: Jericho is the first of the cities to be taken by Israel. Joshua and Israel have just entered the land to take it and Joshua meets the Lord’s commander. Notice the echo of Moses at the burning bush in verse 15.
How have the authors of the book of Joshua recalled and echoed Israel’s earlier history? Why do you think they have done so?
Read More About It.
The following are several good general reference works to aid your reading of Joshua.
Anderson, Bernhard W., Katheryn Pfister Darr, Understanding the Old Testament Abridged fourth Edition. (Upper Saddle River,New Jersey: Prentice Hall) 1998.
Cooke, Robert B. “The Book of Joshua”, in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 2 Keck, Leander E., ed. (Nashville”Abingdon Press) 1994.
Dentan, Robert C., Leslie J. Hoppe “Joshua” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books Metzger, Bruce M., Roland E. Murphy, eds.(New York: Oxford University Press) 1994.
Rast, Walter E. “Joshua” in HarperCollins Bible Commentary Mays, James L. ed.(San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco) 2000.