Who Wrote the Book of Joshua?

August 28, 2018

Have you ever wondered who wrote specific books in the Bible?  One of the most popular characters in the Bible is Joshua – Moses’ personal aide and military commander. Most people can recall a few stories about Joshua (remember the battle of Jericho?), but less are confident they know the author of the actual book from the Old Testament. Let’s explore a few facts about the authorship of Joshua from the information provided in the King James James Study Bible.

The traditional view is that Joshua wrote the entire book. 

This idea is supported by several facts discovered by scholars examining the text.  They point to key dates, geographical references, and insider knowledge someone like Joshua would have had.  Here are just a few of them.

  1. Certain portions bear the mark of an eyewitness to the events described, such as the remark that “the Lord had dried up the waters of Jordan from before the children of Israel, until we were passed over” (Joshua 5:1). This suggests that only someone at the specific event, with access to inside information, could have written the book.
  2. The use of the ancient names of Canaanite cities points to an early date. In other words, the author of the book wasn’t writing about things that perviously happened but things that happened during their lifetime.
  3. The list of boundaries drawn fro the various tribes (Joshua 13 – 19) accurately reflect the known situation of Canaan before the Jewish monarchy, as do the facts that Jerusalem was still a Jebusite city (Joshua 15:63), Gezer was still a Canaanite city (Joshua 16:10), and Gibeonites were Israel’s vassals (also see 2 Samuel 21:1-9).
  4. The failure to mention the Phoenician city of Tyre, while mentioning Sidon, reflects earlier times before Tyre became the more important port city and strategic stronghold of the Phoenicians.
  5. The author cites the ancient book of Jasher as a source material for his writing (Joshua 10:13).
  6. The rehearsal of the wickedness of the Canaanites, for which God commanded their execution, is shown to be accurate in the well-known Ras Shamra Tablets, written in Joshua’s time.
  7. The farewell speeches of Joshua (Joshua 23 and 24) bear the marks of the author’s own affirmations.

All these facts argue for an early date to the book at the time when Joshua actually lived. No one else is the logical author of the book that bears his name.

Portions must have been added later.

Although certain portions must have been added by a later hand, such as the account of Joshua’s death (Joshua 24:29), the conditions after his death (Joshua 24:31), and certain historical events that took place in the time of the Judges, as well as the inclusion of the later names of the earlier cities mentioned above, nevertheless nearly all the material record in the book was likely written by Joshua himself.

Liberal attempts to suggest that Joshua was composed by a later author as part of the Hexateuch associated with Moses have failed to achieve scholarly consensus. Moreover, it falls against the evidence of the Samaritan Bible, which, in adopting only Mosaic material, includes only the five books of the Pentateuch.

The book of Joshua is a record of God’s faithfulness to His covenant people. It underscores the need of the believer to be obedient if he would appropriate all the God his designed for him. It is throughout a testimony to the might and grace of a sovereign and holy God.

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This article includes material from the King James Study Bible, Full-Color Edition from Thomas Nelson.  To learn more about this Bible, watch the video!

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