In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Joshua

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  • The Character of Joshua
  • Joshua and the History of Interpretation

Biblical Studies Joshua
Thomas B. Dozeman
  • LAST REVIEWED: 16 March 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 13 September 2010
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393361-0133


The book of Joshua narrates the conquest of Canaan by the second generation of Israelites who left Egypt. The first generation died in the wilderness because of their fear of invading Canaan. The second generation now completes the story of the exodus by undertaking the invasion under the leadership of Joshua. The book of Joshua separates into two central parts. First, Joshua 1–12 describes the emptying of the land of Canaan through invasion and the extermination of the indigenous population. Joshua 1–5 recounts the Israelite entry into the land by means of the miraculous crossing of the Jordan River. Joshua 6–12 recounts the destruction of all the cities in Canaan and the killing of all the indigenous urban population. Second, Joshua 13–24 recounts the repopulation of Canaan, conceived as the promised land. Four smaller units comprise this section. Joshua 13–19 outlines the tribal territories that result from the Israelite occupation. Joshua 20–21 describes the kinds of cities that are allowable in the new, refashioned society of the promised land: religious Levitical cities, and judicial cities of refuge. Joshua 22 addresses the relationship of tribes on the west and east sides of the Jordan River. Joshua 23–24 concludes the book with covenant ceremonies that require strict social and religious exclusivity.

The Text of Joshua

Joshua is preserved in ancient and medieval tradition in a variety of different languages, as illustrated by Würthwein 1995, of which the Hebrew and Greek versions are the most important for the critical study of the text. English translations are also included, along with relevant material from the Dead Sea Scrolls.

  • Würthwein, Ernst. The Text of the Old Testament: An Introduction to the Biblia Hebraica. 2d ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1995.

    Provides a historical overview of the different ancient versions of the Bible.

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