Joshua 2-6

Joshua 2:13 save alive my father, and my mother, and my brethren, and my sisters… and deliver our lives from death

Is the account of Rahab just history or are there lessons to learn here? Truly, Rahab is symbolic in many ways. As a female, a gentile, and a harlot, she represents that which is least worth saving according to ancient Jewish tradition. Why should the soldiers’ spare her life? She was just another harlot in Canaan. There were thousands before her and there would be thousands after. What made Rahab different?

It is quite remarkable as the children of Israel begin their journey in the land of Canaan that such an unworthy individual is the secret to their spies’ success in Jericho. Over ensuing centuries, Satan would distort Israelite nationalism into an ethnocentric egotism that shunned all outsiders. Yet, their story in the land begins with the story of redemption—the salvation of a female Canaanite sinner. Would they remember Rahab? Would they remember her faith? Would they remember her act of kindness? Did they really believe such a soul was worthy of salvation? Did they know how Jehovah really felt about the non-Israelite nations? Did they realize that as a mortal, Jehovah would seek out and save many more Rahabs? Could they have anticipated the Messiah’s ministry among publicans and sinners? Could they foresee apostolic recognition of Rahab in the books of Hebrews and James? (Heb. 11:31; James 2:25)

The self-righteous must beware. The Israelites counted on national righteousness rather than individual righteousness. Some members of the Church make the same mistake. They figure baptism and cursory obedience is enough. The Lord more readily forgives the penitent sinner than he does the self-righteous pseudosaint, “Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not… and… repented not… but the publicans and the harlots believed him” (Matt. 21:31-32). This story is for all those who feel more like a Rahab than a Joshua. There are many of both in the Church. The Lord loves them both and has prepared a salvation for each. Remember Rahab’s faith saved more than herself; it also saved her father, mother, brothers, and sisters, and “all that they [had].”

Matthias F. Cowley

There are a certain class of pious men among us that I call hypocrites. They are "too good" to do anything that is not considered just right by the world, whether it is right in the sight of God or not. They are after the order of the men who, in the days of Jesus, sought to bring Him into disrepute, and even impeached the honor of His birth, because they did not understand it. They are the kind of men that condemned Rahab, the harlot, because she hid the spies. Why did she hide the spies? Was it to infringe upon the rights of the people of Jericho that she hid them and preserved them from those miserable minions of the law? No, she did it for righteousness sake, to protect innocent men in their liberties. What does the Apostle Paul say about that woman? He said it should be accounted unto her for righteousness… Brethren and sisters, we do not want to be hypocrites. (Conference Report, October 1900, Afternoon Session 21 – 22)

Joshua 3:3-4 When ye see the ark of the covenant… go after it. Yet there shall be a space between you and it

The ark of the covenant represented the presence of the Lord. On one occasion, when Moses spoke with the Lord on Mount Sinai, the people were to watch from a distance but were not to approach the mountain (Ex. 19:10-13). The required distance from the mount suggested they were not holy enough to endure the presence of Jehovah. The distance between the ark and the children in this instance represents the same thing—the children of Israel were to follow the Lord but they were not yet sanctified enough to enter his presence. None of them, save the high priest only, could enter into that part of the tabernacle of Moses which represented the Celestial Kingdom and the presence of God.

“The ark was transported from Sinai to the land of promise. The miraculous crossing of the Jordan River (Josh. 3:3–17) and the fall of the city of Jericho (Josh. 6:1–21) evidence the importance of the ark of the Lord to the Israelites. Once in the land of promise the ark was cared for in various places until its place of permanent rest, the temple, was constructed. During the reign of the Judges, the ark was found at the town of Bethel. (Judg. 20:27.) While Samuel was the prophet and until the war with the Philistines, the ark was located at Shiloh (1 Sam. 1:9, 3:3); during the war it was taken to the battlefield called Ebenezer, where it was captured. For seven months the Philistines were plagued and severely smitten because of their unauthorized possession of the ark. This caused them to return the ark to the Israelites, which they did at the village of Kirjath-jearim. (1 Sam. 4–6.) Here it remained some twenty years, ignored by King Saul except for one battle when its presence had been requested. Finally King David brought the ark to Jerusalem, and after some years his son Solomon constructed the long-awaited temple.” (Edward J. Brandt, “Q&A: Questions and Answers,” New Era, May 1973, 50)

Joshua 3:13 the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth

Mark E. Petersen

The Lord then instructed that the priests carrying the ark of the covenant should approach the river first. As Joshua announced this, once again he impressed on the people that the ark was that of the true and living God. When he referred to it he said, "The ark of the Lord—the Lord of all the earth." (Josh. 3:13.)

He was determined not to allow them to forget the command received on Sinai: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." (Ex. 20:3.)

When they forgot the law, they worshipped idols. They were that fickle. It is dreadful to think of the strong attraction that idolatry really held. We hesitate to place ancient Israel among the idolatrous. But the idolatry of that day did attract many, primarily because it was a sensual religion inviting licentious practices.

The fact that sensuality was fairly extensive in Israel is evident in the divine laws against sex sin in all its varieties as set forth in Leviticus. (See chapters 18 to 21.) People with those wicked inclinations could be persuaded very easily to go after the attraction of the flesh, and to them the practices of the Canaanites may have been very enticing.

The command to cross Jordan was given when all was in readiness. The priests carrying the ark went first, as planned. As their feet entered the river the waters were shut off from above—not just at the site of the crossing but from above—and they stood as in a heap. (Josh. 3:8-17.)

This is interesting in view of some speculations that the crossing came in the dry season and that the stream had probably just dried up, or that a strong wind came at the convenient and appropriate time and swept the waters away from the crossing site. Why will not mankind accept the fact that God is a God of miracles? Why will they not admit that a miracle took place here as it had at the Red Sea? (Joshua: Man of Faith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1978], 41)

Joshua 3:15-16 the feet of the priests that bare the ark were dipped in the brim of the water

Neal A. Maxwell

We sometimes must do the hard things we have been asked to do before we will be blessed. Joshua and his priests, in a little-read replication of the parting and crossing of the Red Sea, crossed the flooded Jordan River in another miracle. But the miracle did not begin for ancient Israel until after Joshua and his priests got the soles of their feet wet. (Josh. 3:15-17) (All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience, pp. 44-45)

Neal A. Maxwell

We all have a need to understand that we must walk to the edge of the light, obediently going as far as the Lord has told us to go before expecting him to help us with the next step. Why not, in this connection, link the better known and far more dramatic crossing of the Red Sea with the episode involving Joshua and the children of Israel when the time came for them to cross the flood-swollen Jordan River. Notice that in the latter episode the Lord required them to get the soles of their feet wet first before he stopped up the swollen Jordan so dramatically. (“Teaching Opportunities from the Old Testament,” Ensign, Apr. 1981, 60)

Joshua 3:17 the priests… stood firm on dry ground in the midst of Jordan, and all the Israelites passed over on dry ground

It had been 40 years since the Israelites had escaped Pharaoh’s army crossing the Red Sea. Only the oldest members of the company, those who were children or youth at the time, could remember the miracle. Most of the vast assembly would have had no personal memory of the event. The Lord was not going to shortchange the next generation. They would get a prophet like unto Moses; they would get a miracle like unto the parting of the Red Sea; they would see the power of God divide the waters “upon an heap.”

Spencer W. Kimball

Israel . . . was ready to cross into the Promised Land, the productivity and beauty of which could probably be seen from the higher hills. But how to get there? There were no bridges nor ferries across the flooding Jordan. Too deep for crossing in ordinary times, it was now at the time of harvest impossible to ford. A great prophet, Joshua, received the mind of the Lord and commanded, and another miracle was born of faith. (See Josh. 3:15-17.)

The elements find control through faith. The wind, the clouds, the heavens obey the voice of faith. . . .

If you would discount these miracles of the Old Testament, how can you accept the New Testament? (LDS Church News, 1994, 03/26/94)

Mark E. Petersen

The river was similarly divided on two other occasions. Both were miracles, just as was the above-mentioned instance.

When Elijah and Elisha needed to cross the river together, "Elijah took his mantle, and wrapped it together, and smote the waters, and they were divided hither and thither, so that they two went over on dry ground." (2 Kgs. 2:8.)

Following this, Elijah was taken into heaven on the fiery chariot. As Elisha returned from this experience, he had to again cross the river to reach his home. "And he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and smote the waters, and said, Where is the Lord God of Elijah? and when he also had smitten the waters, they parted hither and thither: and Elisha went over." (2 Kgs. 2:14.)

Under no circumstance could critics say that in these instances some convenient wind came along and blew the streambed dry, or that the two prophets walked across during a severe drought period when the streambed was dry. These were miracles! Why not admit it? (Joshua: Man of Faith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1978], 45)

Joshua 4:6-7 these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever

Howard W. Hunter

Fathers have been leaving memorials for their children, and children have been raising them to their fathers, since time began. On Temple Square in Salt Lake City we have consciously surrounded ourselves with such memorials—the old Nauvoo bell, the Seagull Monument, statues of the Restoration, Thorvaldsen's Christus, to name just a few. These serve to unite generation with generation, preserving in a long, unbroken chain the important events of our common heritage.

The passage of time and the growth of our institutions often tend to separate us not only from each other but also from our common purposes. Down through history we have been commanded to construct memorials, or hold Passover feasts, or convene general conferences to preserve the power of our united faith and to remember the commandments of God in achieving our eternal, unchanging goals.

More than monuments and festivals are needed, however, for us to succeed in reinforcing our strength and preserving our unity. In much the same way as Joshua did years ago, the builders of the impressive Washington Monument in Washington, D.C., gathered stones from each of the states of the union and encased them within the interior of that 555-foot obelisk, the tallest masonry building in the world, as a tribute not only to the first president and father of our country, but also to our national unity. (That We Might Have Joy [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1994], 48)

Joshua 4:9 Joshua set up twelve stones… and they are there unto this day

We should be careful not to assume that the book of Joshua was written by Joshua himself—that it descended directly from his hand untouched by scribes. As with the books of Moses, there is a nearly invisible hand editing the text. In this particular passage, we see that some writer, probably from centuries later, is commenting on the monument left by Joshua at this time, “they are there unto this day.” The scribe had passed by that way; he had seen the monument!

Readers of the Book of Mormon are used to the very spiritual and uplifting editorial work of Mormon and Moroni. There were those who performed the same work on the Old Testament writings but they were not prophets, they were scribes. Their work, although very important, often lacked the prophetic vision and spirituality that Mormon and Moroni provided. Instead, it reinforced the main points of interest to ancient Israel—that the Israelites were a favored nation—that they were to worship Jehovah—that they were to keep the Law of Moses. The subtleties of higher principles were often missed.

Joshua 4:20 Then ye shall let your children know, saying, Israel came over this Jordan on dry land

B. H. Roberts

The Lord was anxious, apparently, that there should be a testimony in stone, an enduring monument of the manifestation of His power in behalf of Israel. I think I catch a glimpse of the same spirit in the experiences of modern Israel. For many years now, with a great joy, I have looked upon this magnificent Temple upon this block, as a collective testimony in stone, to God's presence and power and salvation, among the Latter-day Saints that is mightier, perhaps, than the verbal testimony of any man, because it may be seen by so many, unmoved through many generations, and has been established by the collective mites of a community. They have builded a monument of testimony in stone that God has given commandments to this generation. (Conference Report, October 1913, Afternoon Session. 25 - 26)

Joshua 5:2 circumcise again the children of Israel

There are two main points about circumcising the children of Israel at this time. The first, is that the Israelites had not kept this practice while in the wilderness. Circumcision is a token of the covenant of Abraham, not a token of the Law of Moses. However, in the meridian of time, the circumcision would be equated with the Law. The apostle Paul struggled with converted Judaizers falsely requiring the Gentile converts to get circumcised. “Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved,” they taught (Acts 15:1). Well, the Jews had misunderstood the token—it belonged to the covenant of Abraham more than the Law of Moses—the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years and didn’t even perform any circumcisions! Paul taught that salvation couldn’t come by circumcision, saying, “he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter” (Rom 2:29).

Secondly, the reinstitution of circumcision proviede a time to reestablish the covenant relationship with the Lord. The entry into the promised land was symbolic for the Israelites. Elder Gerald N. Lund noted, “Once they entered into the promised land, Joshua was commanded to perform the ordinance of circumcision among the Israelites (see Josh. 5:2-7). While wandering in the wilderness, this token of the Abrahamic covenant had not been performed. Now that they had sanctified themselves and followed Jesus (seen in the types of Joshua and the ark of the covenant) into the promised land, they were once again the true covenant people and therefore the token was reinstituted.” (Jesus Christ, Key to the Plan of Salvation [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1991], 75)

The latter-day pioneers felt like they were also entering the promised land when they entered the Salt Lake Valley. Although it was not yet a land flowing with milk and honey, it represented peace and the privilege to worship the Lord. The symbolism was not lost on Brigham Young who commanded the saints to be rebaptized.

Joseph Fielding Smith

After the arrival of the Pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley, and subsequently for a considerable period, all those who entered the valley were baptized anew at the request of President Brigham Young who, with the Council of the Twelve, set the example to the people who were gathering from all parts of the world.

There were various reasons for this action on the part of President Young and the leading brethren. They, stated that it was for the "renewal of their covenants.” They came into the valley rejoicing after many trials and untold hardships from a land where they had been subject to mob violence and dictation on the part of enemies who denied to them the privilege guaranteed in the Constitution of our land, to worship God according to the dictates of conscience.

After their arrival in this western land, they were free from molestation, and in humility they approached the Lord, not because of transgression, but because of thankfulness for their deliverance from wicked enemies, and knowing no better way to express their gratitude decided to make covenant with the Lord that from that time forward they would serve him and keep his commandments. As a token of this covenant they entered the water and were baptized and confirmed, renewing their covenants and obligations as members of the Church. (Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols., edited by Bruce R. McConkie [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954-1956], 2: 334)

Joshua 5:10 the children of Israel… kept the passover

Gerald N. Lund

The ark of the covenant entering the promised land. The ark of the covenant, which symbolized the presence of Jehovah, went before the camp of Israel and led the way into the new land. (See Josh. 3:11.) Like passing through the Red Sea, Israel again passed through the midst of the waters to enter the promised land. (See Josh. 3:15-17.) The Lord specifically connected the two events by asking that a memorial be built. (See Josh. 4:20-24.) The crossing of Israel into the new land was also done on the first day of passover (see Josh. 4:19; Ex. 12:2-3), again invoking the typology of deliverance from bondage and death…

Thus we see that both the Exodus, including the Passover, and the entry into Canaan have great typological significance. In actuality the whole exodus from slavery to entry into the promised land provides a type or similitude of what must happen to each individual if he is to "[put] off the natural man and [become] a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord." (Mosiah 3:19.) (Jesus Christ, Key to the Plan of Salvation [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1991], 75)

Joshua 5:12 the manna ceased

Imagine how many of the Israelites would have grown up their entire lives with a daily supply of manna. We wake up and expect there will be oxygen to breath. They woke up and expected there would be manna to eat. If it had happened every single day for their entire lives, would it have seemed like a miracle to them? Wouldn’t they have said, “doesn’t everybody eat manna every day?” They would not known anything different. To this generation of Israelites, the loss of daily manna must have been concerning. “What do we do now? What are we going to eat? I don’t have any recipes for corn; all I know how to make are meals of manna.”

Bruce R. McConkie

He rained manna from heaven upon all Israel, six days each week for forty years, lest they perish for want of bread, but the manna ceased on the morrow after they ate of the parched corn of Canaan. Then they were required to supply their own food. (See Ex. 16:3–4, 35.)

During forty years in the wilderness the clothes worn by all Israel waxed not old and their shoes wore not out, but when they entered their promised land, then the Lord required them to provide their own wearing apparel. (See Deut. 29:5.) (“Stand Independent above All Other Creatures,” Ensign, May 1979, 93)

Joshua 5:14 captain of the host of the Lord

Bruce R. McConkie

Christ himself is the chief soldier in his own army; as Commander, he carries the title captain of the Lord's Host. By this name he appeared to Joshua, who seeing "him with his sword drawn in his hand," and hearing him say, "As captain of the host of the Lord am I now come, . . . Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, what saith my lord unto his servant? And the captain of the Lord's host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy." (Josh. 5:13-15.) What further direction was then given has not been preserved for us.

It is profitable to compare this appearance of our Lord to Joshua with his appearance to Moses in the burning bush at which time the ground also was hallowed by the personal presence of Deity (Ex. 3) and also to compare it with the ministry of the angel whom John attempted to worship but was restrained with the command: "See thou do it not: worship God." (Rev. 19:9-11) Among righteous messengers from the spirit realms, none but Deity will accept worship from mortals, and none but the Lord himself hallows a spot so that mortals are commanded to remove their shoes. (Mormon Doctrine, 2d ed. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966], 112)

Joshua 6:3 ye shall compass the city, all ye men of war, and go round about the city once [for] six days

Mark E. Petersen

It may be wondered how the spies could have been so readily recognized as they entered Jericho. Archaeologists say that the city occupied only from six to ten acres of land. Strangers therefore were quickly noticed, since all the inhabitants of the city evidently knew each other well. The fact that the circumference of the city was so small also makes more understandable how the Israelite army could march around it so easily each day for a week.

Lying deep in the Jordan valley, Jericho was 825 feet below sea level. Jerusalem is 3,200 feet higher in elevation than Jericho. Many subtropical fruits grow near Jericho, such as dates, figs, bananas, and grapes, but also balsam, roses, henna, and the plum-like myrobalan, which was used anciently for ink.

The city is believed to date back well beyond 4000 B.C., which is merely conjecture, of course. Jericho had different sites over the centuries; the town was rebuilt on alternate but nearby locations after sieges, earthquakes, and other catastrophes. In some of the mounds, archaeologists have found as many as seven layers of houses, one on top of the other, indicating that new peoples built on the older ruins still remaining.

Ancient Jericho was surrounded by masonry and stone walls, with lookout towers at regular intervals around the structure. In places the walls were fourteen feet thick and twenty-five feet high; in other places the archaeologists indicate the walls were narrower. Their full height is not definitely known because of their eroded condition after so many centuries.

Jericho lay directly in the pathway of the invading Israelites. They needed to take Jericho before they could enter and conquer other parts of Canaan. This is what Joshua planned to do. (Joshua: Man of Faith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1978], 38 - 39)

Joshua 6:16 Joshua said unto the people, Shout; for the Lord hath given you the city

Howard W. Hunter

When Joshua was directed to destroy the city of Jericho that lay before them, the great walls of the city stood as an imposing and physically impossible barrier to Israel’s success—or at least so it seemed. Not knowing the means, but assured as to the end, Joshua carried out the instructions he had been given by a messenger of the Lord. His commitment was to complete obedience. His concern was to do precisely as he was instructed, that the promise of the Lord would be fulfilled. The instructions no doubt seemed strange, but his faith in the outcome urged him on. The result, of course, was another in a long series of miracles experienced by the Israelites as they were led over many years by Moses, by Joshua, and by many other prophets who were committed to follow the commandments and the directives of the Lord.

As Joshua and his people approached Jericho, the instructions of the Lord were followed precisely, and according to the scriptural account, “the waIl fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city.” (Josh. 6:20.) (“Commitment to God,” Ensign, Nov. 1982, 57)

Joshua 6:20 the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up in to the city… and they took the city

Howard W. Hunter

When Joshua led the children of Israel over the Jordan River, the first city they confronted was Jericho. Spies were sent out, and a council of war was held. Joshua’s generals undoubtedly set forth arguments as to the kind of weapons, armaments, and tactics that would be needed if they were to breach the wall successfully and destroy the city. Traditionally, it would have meant a lengthy siege. In the meantime, the reputation of the Israelites had preceded them, for the gates of walled Jericho were already closed. The biblical account reads: “Now Jericho was straitly shut up because of the children of Israel: none went out, and none came in.” (Josh. 6:1.)

In fact, the military planning was so far advanced that according to Joshua, “about forty thousand prepared for war passed over before the Lord unto battle, to the plains of Jericho.” (Josh. 4:13.)

But the Lord had a better way: “And the Lord said unto Joshua, See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valour.” (Josh. 6:2.)

Yes, Jehovah has a better plan. Jericho would fall, but in the Lord’s way. Instead of being armed with swords and spears, they were armed with rams’ horns. Instead of taking a battering ram, they were to take the sacred ark. They were led not by generals, but by priests; they wore not armor, but priestly garments. And in place of a battle cry, there was perhaps a hosanna shout. Instead of setting them to a long, devastating military siege, the Lord promised that after only seven days “the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him.” (Josh. 6:5.)

The Apostle Paul, commenting on this rather unusual procedure, explains it all in one simple sentence: “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down.” (Heb. 11:30.)

Elder James E. Talmage concurred when he wrote, “With full confidence in the instructions and promises of God, Joshua and his intrepid followers laid [spiritual] siege to Jericho; and the walls of that city of sin fell before the faith of the besiegers without the use of battering rams or other engines of war.” (Articles of Faith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1984, pp. 93–94.)

President Kimball, in addressing the issue of “walls,” asked: “Why must men rely on physical fortification and armaments when the God of heaven yearns to bless them? One stroke of his omnipotent hand could make powerless all nations who oppose, and save a world even when in its death throes. Yet men shun God and put their trust in weapons of war, or in the ‘arm of flesh.’ ” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969, p. 318) (“Walls of the Mind,” Ensign, Sept. 1990, 9)