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GBC Bible Reading Plan Apr 7–13

GBC Blog (18)

Week 15, April 7–April 13: Joshua 14–24; Judges 1–9; Psalm 42–44

  • Sun 4/7: Josh 14–16    
  • Mon 4/8: Josh 17–19    
  • Tue 4/9: Josh 20–21    
  • Wed 4/10: Josh 22–24    
  • Thu 4/11: Judg 1–3, Psalm 42
  • Fri 4/12: Judg 4–6, Psalm 43
  • Sat 4/13: Judg 7–9, Psalm 44

The book of Joshua reads like a story of massive success. God’s promises are coming to fruition as the people of Israel move through the Land with rapid pace, winning battle after battle and wiping out city after city and king after king. As we read of the land’s allotment to the tribes of Israel, we are meant to see this as a prosperous time in the history of God’s people. Indeed, it is probably the most positive book in the whole OT, from the perspective of Israel and their political and military success in the Land. Overall, the book presents an overwhelmingly victorious picture.

There are, however, a few things about the book that mitigate its positive perspective. Last week’s reading included the story of Achan’s sin. He took some of the forbidden spoils of Jericho for himself, and Israel suffered a surprising defeat in their first attack of Ai (Joshua 7). And Joshua and the Israelite leaders failed to seek the Lord’s guidance and were duped by the guile of the Gibeonites (Joshua 9). In the second half of the book, the narrator mentions a few times that Canaanites remain in the land (Josh. 13:13; 15:63; 16:10; 17:12-13). The Israelites did not remove them entirely, and this hints at what will come next in the book of Judges.

In addition to these details, what is perhaps most troubling about the book of Joshua, at least for us as readers today, is the conquest itself. How do we make sense of the violence? What are we to think of the Israelites, under the leadership of Joshua, killing all the Canaanites in their path? And perhaps most difficult of all is the idea that this is what God commanded. This can be one of the most challenging parts of the Bible to read, and the most difficult to make sense of in light of what we know about God’s loving character. But we can trust that the Lord is good, and that, somehow, the narrative of the conquest in Joshua reveals something true and right about God and the world.

Without claiming to resolve all the tension presented by the conquest of Canaan, here are a few principles to keep in mind as we read Joshua (and other parts of the OT):

  • The instructions God gives to annihilate other nations and people are limited and apply only to the Promised Land. (Deut 7:1; 20:10–18)
  • These commands and this kind of conquest are unique in world history. As Bonhoeffer said, “Israel’s wars were the only ‘holy’ wars the world has ever known.” (Bonhoeffer, Cost of Discipleship, p 138)
  • The inhabitants of the Land were wicked, violent people. (Lev. 18:25–28; Deut. 9:5; 12:31; cf Gen. 15:16) One commentator (on Gen 15:16) sees the conquest under Joshua “as an act of justice rather than aggression.” (Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1–17, p 428). Another commentator says that, like the flood, the conquest can be considered “a form of counterviolence” on God’s part. (McConville and Williams, Joshua, p 112).
  • The purpose of destruction was to punish sin and avoid idolatry. (Exod. 20:3–4; 23:24; Lev. 18:1–5, 24–30; Deut. 7:1–5, 16; Josh. 24:14–23)
  • Violence is a result of the fall. This includes the violence of the conquest and the violence of the final judgement. Violence has always been a part of humanity since sin entered the picture (Genesis 4, 6). God’s command to commit violence could be seen as a concession that is only necessary because of the violence of the world with sin in it. But it is a necessary means to eradicate sin.
  • God’s plan involves future judgement that will take the form of (extreme) violence (e.g. Rev 19:11–14, 20–21).
  • God is ultimately the one conquering the Land, using Joshua and Israel as his instruments. (Deut. 7:17–24; 20:1–5; Josh. 1:6, 9; 6:2; 8:1; 10:8; 11:6) God is the one giving them victory. This is a picture of his final justice (see Revelation).
  • There are (dramatic) exceptions to the rule—evidence of God’s grace that play a major role in the story. (e.g. Rahab)
  • We should not pit the peaceful, crucified Lamb against the mighty Warrior on the White horse.
  • God’s ultimate plan is a plan of peace. God’s eternal kingdom will be a kingdom of peace, where swords are beaten into plowshares (Isa 2:4)

The book ends with Joshua giving a charge to the people that is reminiscent of Moses’ words to Israel before he died. Joshua reminds them that God has been completely faithful to his promises, and he will continue to prove himself faithful. If the Israelites are faithful to the Lord, he will give them continued success and prosperity in the Land, but if they disobey his commands, transgress his covenant, and go after other God’s, they will suffer the consequences and eventually be removed from the Land of Promise (Josh. 23:14-16).

Joshua urges them to choose who they will serve, the Lord or the false gods of Canaan (24:14–15). The Israelites assure him they will serve the Lord (24:16–18), but Joshua says, “You are not able to serve the Lord, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good.” (24:19–20) The book ends with a covenant renewal ceremony then the death of Joshua, and the stage is set for the book of Judges and for the rest of the story of Israel in the Land.


It does not take long for things to change following Joshua’s death and as we begin reading Judges. The pockets of Canaanites that remained in the Land become a major problem, and soon the people fall into idolatry and start to experience defeat and oppression as a result. Judges is a book of sin and chaos, with things getting increasingly worse as the narrative unfolds. If Joshua was a story of victory, Judges is a story of defeat.

As is the case with many of the books of the Bible, the early parts of Judges include summary comments that can serve as helpful interpretive guides for the rest of the book. One such section is found in Judg. 2:11–23. This summarizes the situation after Joshua’s death and sets the stage for what will follow in Judges. Another passage that previews the rest of the book can be found in chapter 3. Throughout the book, a sequence of similar events—a narrative cycle of sin, defeat, and deliverance—will repeat several times as the situation in Israel declines in a downward spiral. This cyclical pattern occurs for the first time in Judg. 3:7–11, and the elements of the pattern can be summarized as follows:

  1. Israel does evil in the eyes of Yahweh. (2:11; 3:7, 12; 4:1; 6:1; 10:6; 13:1)
  2. Sin results in God’s anger and oppression by a foreign nation. (2:14; 3:8; 4:2; 10:9)
  3. During oppression, Israel cries out to Yahweh. (3:9, 15; 6:6-7; 10:10)
  4. Yahweh hears their cry and raises up a judge to deliver them. (2:16; 3:9, 15; 10:1, 12)
  5. Deliverance is often followed by peace, then death of the judge (3:10-11; 8:28-32; 10:2-5; 12:9-15)

There are variations to the pattern each time it occurs, but the repetition is evident and meaningful to the book’s overall message. Notice this as you read and observe how the situation in Israel goes from bad to worse to horrific by the end of the book. And all of this serves a purpose. As we read, it stirs in us a longing for God’s justice and righteousness, and it leaves us looking for a king to bring this about.