(Holman Bible Dictionary)


The leader of Israelites who first took control of Promised Land of Canaan. Joshua is one of the unsung heroes of the Old Testament. He, not Moses, led the people into the Promised Land. He was a person of such stature that he could succeed the incomparable Moses and compile a record of notable success (Josh. 24:31). The Hebrew variations of Joshua are Oshea (Num. 13:16); Hosea (Hos. 1:1). English versions differ in their transliteration of the Hebrew names. Its New Testament equivalent is Jesus.

Joshua was born in Egypt during the period of slavery. He was a member of Ephraim, the important tribe that later formed the heart of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. He first appeared during the battle with the Amalekites during the desert travels. He was Moses’ general, who led the troops in the actual fighting while Aaron and Hur held up Moses’ hands (Ex. 17:8-13).

Joshua was Moses’s servant (Ex. 24:13). He was on the mountain when Moses received the Law (Ex. 32:17). He was also one of the twelve spies Moses sent to investigate Canaan (Num. 13:8). He and Caleb returned with a positive, minority report. Of all the adults alive at that time, only the two of them were allowed to live to enter the land of Canaan (Num. 14:28-30,38).

The Lord selected Joshua to be Moses’ successor long before Moses’ death (Num. 27:15-23; Deut. 31:14-15,23; 34:9). Joshua was a military leader, a political leader, and a spiritual leader. He was quiet and unassuming, but he was not buffaloed by his responsibilities or the task that lay before him. He was a battlefield genius, particularly in the areas of careful planning, strategy, and execution. He was a capable administrator for the nation, effective in maintaining harmony among people and groups. He was a spokesman to the people for the Lord. Though he did not receive the Law as Moses had, he communicated the Lord’s will and the Lord’s message much like Moses.

Joshua was at the helm of the nation during the conquest and the distribution and settlement of Canaan. He led in the covenant renewal at mount Ebal and Shechem (Josh. 8:30-35; 24:1-28). He was able to challenge his people by both word and example. His pattern is a hard one to better.