Category Archives: Bible Books

Chapter-by-chapter overview of books in the Bible

Joshua, chapter 9: Trickery and Deception

V.1-2 – Following the success of Israel against Jericho (fortified city of the border) and Ai (small, local city), the remaining city-states of Canaan begin to form an anti-Israel coalition. Rather than be picked off one by one, they plan to attack Israel on-masse (as we will see in a later chapter).

V.3-13 – The people of Gibeon (a larger neighboring city) create an elaborate illusion, giving the impression that they have come from a distant land (a plausible lie) and wish to form an alliance with Israel (the truth). This may seem unusual, especially given the details revealed about Gibeon in the next chapter (big city, strong army, etc.), but given the Israelites’ victories on the eastern (and now western) sides of the Jordan River, it is clear to the city-states of Canaan that open opposition to Israel is fast becoming a death sentence.

V.14-18 – Israel makes a fateful decision: they choose to accept the alliance WITHOUT CONSULTING THE LORD. Their choice to rush into a hasty alliance shows 2 things: 1) they were eager for allies in the battle against the Canaanites, and 2) they forgot that GOD was the One granting them victory in battles ahead; as Abraham’s “solution” in Ishmael caused problems for his family in the years and generations that followed, so will it be with Israel’s hasty covenant with the Gibeonites. Even when the deception is revealed, Israel is bound by the vows they have made, and no attack (of retaliation or otherwise) can be made against Gibeon, and the people’s view of their leadership begins to sour (a similar trait passed on from the older generation in the wilderness).

V.19-27 – With the Gibeonites having fulfilled their deception (and tied themselves to Israel), the leadership of Israel now decides what to do. Joshua and the rulers (established under Moses after Jethro’s advice) declare that, while they will uphold the agreement to not attack Gibeon, the people of Gibeon will now serve Israel as menial labor – woodcutters and water-carriers, servicing both the Tabernacle altar and the population of Israel in general.

Some might consider their treatment poetic justice, but keep in mind what is happening behind the scenes. For the first time in their history, the Israelites become the oppressors; after being slaves to the Egyptians, they are now making slaves of their Canaanite neighbors. More than that, this will mark the beginning of a stumbling block for Israel; their Canaanite neighbors will serve as both a reminder (of Israel’s failure to consult the LORD) and a temptation (culture of idolatry, as with the previous generation in Numbers). From here through the book of Judges, the moral decay of Israel will spiral until they become worse than their pagan neighbors.

Joshua, chapter 8: victory at Ai!

V.1-2 – GOD instructs Joshua to do battle with Ai once more; this time, however, the situation will be different: 1) rather than a token force (like last time in chapter 7), all of Israel’s soldiers will be brought to bear; 2) the Israelites are permitted to take spoil for themselves from their conquest (only property, no people); 3) GOD is with them in this battle, and has assured Joshua of victory; and 4) GOD has instructed Joshua on what strategy to use.

V.3-8 – Following GOD’s instructions, Joshua sets aside a group of soldiers (30,000) to wait in ambush behind Ai’s location; Israel is going to use a feint with their main force to draw Ai’s army away from the city. Once that is done, the ambush force will attack the city, descend the hill, and attack the army of Ai from the rear while Israel’s main force turns back and engages them from the front.

V.9-13 – The ambush is set up during the night, and Joshua sends out a third force (5,000) to prevent the neighboring city-state from sending forces to assist Ai. The next day, Joshua leads the main force in the feint maneuver: 1) They make camp in the valley below the city, where they can be easily seen, and will appear to be an attractive lure for Ai, 2) the two ambush forces settle into position, undetected, 3) at daybreak, the battle is set to begin.

V.14-20 – The soldiers of Ai are drawn into the trap; they are so convinced of victory that no one stays behind to defend Ai. As they come rushing out, Joshua and the main attack force pull back (feigned retreat) to put some distance between the soldiers and their now-defenseless city. When Joshua gives the signal (waving his spear, possibly with a flag or another way to distinguish himself in the midst of battle), Israel’s main army turns around to attack Ai, and the larger ambush force charges into the city, putting it to the torch.

V.21-29 – With the ambush complete, Israel’s forces turn and complete annihilate Ai’s population (12,000 total); the livestock and wealth of the city (from hereon forward) is divided among the Israelites. As a note of interest, the Israelites have (not yet) taken no captives (Rahab and her family do not count as such, since they were integrated as members of the nation). There are two commands of GOD regarding this matter: 1) to Israel (found in the Pentateuch) and 2) to Joshua personally (the beginning of chapter 8). When captives are taken, Israel is to treat them gently and with respect. Israel has been the oppressed; they should NOT become the new oppressor.

V. 30-35 – Following Moses’ precedent, Joshua leads the people in worship after the battle is finished; GOD is the crucial part of Israel’s victories, and Joshua (having learned this lesson in the wilderness) is keen on making sure the next generation remembers it well. Additionally, Joshua copies the Mosaic Law onto the stones of the altar he has built; it is both an instructional tool and a reminder that the Law is Israel’s covenant pact with GOD, applying to every member of the nation.

Joshua, chapter 7: Achan and the aching he Caused

V.1 – Despite explicit instructions from GOD (through Joshua), one member of Israel (Achan) steals some of the riches that should have been given as tribute to GOD. This is noted in v.24 of the previous chapter; all plunder from the conquest of Jericho (precious metals) was considered to be a “first-fruits” offering to GOD. Israel was free to partake of all future conquests, but Achan decided that his own desires were more important than GOD.

The details of this petty theft will be revealed later, but the effect of his action(s) is immediately apparent. Elsewhere in Scripture, we see sin compared to yeast: “a little leaven leavens the whole lump.” If one Israelite is guilty of sin, the entire nation is tainted; Achan doesn’t yet realize it, but he has jeopardized/ruined Israel’s (immediate) future by disobeying GOD’s command.

V.2-5 – Compared with Jericho, Ai was just a small suburb; Joshua sent only a token force to fight because he (and Israel) didn’t expect the fight to be any great difficulty. However, Israel’s force of 3,000 is routed by the men of Ai, and they kill 36 Israelites as they flee. This is, after a fashion, a repeat of a past mistake: in Numbers 14, the older generation (who were sentenced to die in the wilderness) tried to go into battle against the Canaanites without GOD’s help, and they too suffered a humiliating defeat. In light of this present loss, the Israelites under Joshua lose their confidence and will to fight.

V.6-13 – Joshua grieves Israel’s loss at Ai, wondering how it happened. He knows that, if the Canaanites rally themselves now, Israel will surely be on the brink of destruction. For a moment, he even contemplates what life would have been like if Israel had never entered the Promised Land!

Thankfully, GOD addresses Joshua’s question, bringing to his attention the unfaithfulness in Israel’s midst. If Israel is not faithful in following Him, then He will not be with them anymore. The people of Israel now has a choice to make: 1) allow the corruption to remain (and face certain doom from their enemies), or 2) end the moral corruption by finding (and punishing) the one who caused it.

V.14-21 – Following the revelation and instruction, Joshua summons Israel by tribe, clan, family, and household. The most likely method (although not explicitly stated) would have been by casting lots; this could take many forms (tablets, cast stones or stones, etc.), and is seen many times throughout the Old Testament. It was believed that the outcome (differentiating guilt and innocence) was guided by the hand of GOD, and until the coming of the Holy Spirit was one of the most accurate means of making an official decision. Eventually, Achan is singled out, and he confesses his crime before Joshua, even pointing out where the stolen goods are kept.

V.22-26 – Joshua’s “messengers” (chosen representatives) search Achan’s tent, and the pilfered plunder is found exactly where he said they would be. With the evidence in hand, Israel delivers punishment as commanded by GOD (and was traditional for the time/culture): Achan, his family, and all they possess, are marched outside the camp to the Valley of Achor (“trouble”). There, they are stoned to death, and everything that remains (possession included) are burned with fire as GOD told Joshua to do. This includes the valuable plunder that Achan stole; having been tainted by Achan’s sin, they are no longer acceptable to be given to GOD.

Some may argue that it was unfair to execute Achan’s family because of his misdeed, but let us recall a couple of things: 1) Achan hid them in/under his tent, so they would have been aware of what he had done, and 2) having seen/known what Achan had done and saying nothing, they were guilty of the sin of omission; they were willing to tolerate wrongdoing in their midst than confess and be made right with GOD.

Having finished the stoning, they raise a pile of memorial stones over the remains of Achan and his household, naming the valley so that future generations would remember the trouble that happens when Israel disobeys GOD. With the matter now closed, GOD is no longer angry with Israel, and the nation can now move forward with Him.

Joshua, chapter 6: taking Jericho


The promise of victory is given before the battle is begun; instructions/strategy are laid out for Joshua, and he will pass it on the people of Israel.


The instructions are an expression of Israel’s faith that GOD is in their midst and will provide victory. Just as with the wilderness wanderings, the coming of victory will happen His way, which is rarely (if ever) according to conventional human thinking. For instance, usually an attacking army would make some sort of war cry to intimidate the enemy. This time, however, the only sound(s) made until the seventh day will be the blowing of the priests’ horns and the tramping of feet in the army.


For the first six days, Israel undertakes what must have looked like (to the inhabitants of Jericho) a ridiculous endeavor – marching around the city with the entire camp of Israel – bot strong and weak – around him and the Ark. The action, however, is FAR from empty; 6 is the number of fallen humanity, falling short of GOD’s perfection. This translates to Israel’s inability to achieve victory without the LORD.


On the seventh day, Israel makes the expected circuit, but this time there are seven laps instead of the (perhaps expected) one. 7 is the number of completion, and added to the previous 6 days of marching makes a total of 13 – the number of tribes in Israel (Joseph’s two and the other 11 sons). At the end of the march, Israel is given the signal to SHOUT (drawn from the Hebrew “shabach,” one of seven Hebrew words for praise). At the sound of praise, GOD knocks down the otherwise impassible fortifications, also creating a ramp for Israel to enter the city with ease.


The only section of wall that does NOT fall down is the portion that held Rahab’s house. Having been faithful to the pact made with the spies in chapter 2, she has gathered her whole family with her, trusting in Israel’s promise to spare them all. Indeed, Rahab and her clan will be the only survivors of Jericho, becoming part of Israel – and Rahab in particular will be the second of four women mentioned in the ancestry of Jesus (Matthew 1)!

Joshua, chapter 5: preparations, getting right with GOD

News traveled slower during this time, but Israel’s reputation has far preceded them. In chapter 2, Rahab tells of how the account of the Exodus and the battles east of the Jordan have already spread far and wide, and now the inhabitants of Canaan find that the LORD has miraculously opened the was for Israel to enter the land. Their existence now inspires one feeling – FEAR.

Before the conquest of Canaan can begin, there is an issue that needs to be resolved. The wilderness generation was never circumcised (a sign of the covenant that the LORD established with Abraham) – it is a bit of a mystery why the older generation did not circumcise their children. A few possibilities are:
1) the need for mobility (circumcision would slow them down – healing takes time), or
2) a sense of rebellion after being denied the Promised Land (following the events at Kadesh Barnea – Numbers 13 & 14), or
3) a despairing belief that their children, having to live with their parents’ punishment, would not be allowed to enter the Promised Land either (not trusting in GOD’s word in Numbers 14:31).

Whatever the reason, the new generation are now part of the covenant, and GOD will honor His promises to them.

Having arrived in the spring, Israel keeps the Passover celebration, for the first time in Canaan (and in celebration of the end of their long journey). Also for the first time, the people eat of Canaan’s rich produce (samples of which were brought by the twelve spies in Numbers 13) and the bread from Heaven ceases to fall.

For forty years, GOD provided the manna for Israel on the journey through the wilderness; now that they have entered Canaan, they no longer have any need for it.

As he scouts out the immediate area (and the first military target), Joshua comes across an armed Man; seeking to weigh things out, Joshua asks which side He is on. The Man replies that, as commander of the LORD’s armies, He is on God’s side. Joshua immediately bows in worship, and the Man does not rebuke Joshua for doing so; this means that the Man is no mere angel – not even an archangel like Michael – but rather the preincarnate Christ, GOD in person.

For Joshua, this experience serves a dual purpose:
1) this is Joshua’s “burning bush” experience; as GOD spoke to and called Moses at the bush, He now calls Joshua at the outskirts of Jericho. He even repeats the command to remove his sandals, because any meeting place with GOD is holy ground.
2) It is a reminder to Joshua that the proper question for his (and Israel’s) success in conquering Canaan is “are you on GOD’s side?” It will be His hand of power that determines whether or not Israel will receive and hold the land.

Joshua, chapter 4: entrance and evidence

Each of the twelve men (representing each tribe in Israel) is commanded to take up a stone (large enough to be carried on the shoulder, held with both hands) from the riverbed of the Jordan River. These men (and the stones they will set up) will be a testimony to God’s divine intervention on Israel’s behalf in opening the way to the Promised Land. A similar dynamic is seen in Genesis, when Jacob commemorates his vision of the stairway to Heaven he observed in a dream at Beth-El, as well as in 1st Samuel (where we first see the name “Ebenezer” mentioned); Samuel sets up a marker to show how far Yahweh helped Israel to push back the Philistines.

After 40 years in the wilderness, the Israelites are eager to enter the Promised Land; they hurry across, keeping a respectful distance from the Ark. As promised, the men of war from the 2 1/2 tribes who will remain on the east bank cross over with the rest, trusting that Yahweh will keep their families safe from harm while they are gone. With the full force of Israel committed to the task ahead, the priests with the Ark come up from the riverbed, and the waters of the Jordan are released.

Yahweh has brought Israel to a different place than the previous generation; Kadesh Barnea, the southern entrance to Canaan, was the dwelling of the “sons of Anak” – giants like Goliath who defeated Israel during Moses’ time. Instead of leading them back there, Yahweh will lead Israel through Gilgal, in the eastern portion of Canaan. Gilgal (about 5 miles from the Jordan River) will continue to serve as Israel’s primary camp throughout Joshua’s leadership, and it is where the “ebenezer” stones from the river crossing will be set up. They will serve as evidence to the new generations of the veracity of the Exodus, wilderness wanderings, and entrance into Canaan, as well as Yahweh’s direct role in them all.

Joshua, chapter 3: river crossing into Canaan

In Christian teaching, the crossing into Canaan is a symbol of entering the victorious Christian life.

This is a generation that has grown up in the wilderness and seen the miracles God has done there; few still live who remember witnessing the Red Sea crossing. After 40 years of wandering, the nation is finally ready to cross over into Canaan, and they are about to see God move as they have never seen before.

Take note that the Ark (Yahweh’s mobile throne) is what leads the way into the Promised Land. The same is true of the victorious Christian life – we cannot claim it on our own, God must be the one leading the way. The distance Joshua commands Israel to keep is both a measure of how wide the opening in the river will be for the crossing Israelites and a symbol of respect for God’s holy presence.

Yahweh reiterates that Joshua’s relationship with God will be pivotal for the nation; as Moses was His go-between with Israel in the wilderness, so will Joshua be in the conquest of the Promised Land.

So it is that Joshua serves not only as military commander, but intermediary leader for Israel; God will always be Israel’s true ruler, even through the time of the kings, but Joshua will be a leadership model for the people of the nation.

Final instructions are given, and a sign is foretold; God (symbolized by the Ark) will continue to lead the people, and the selected twelve men will have a special task in building an “ebenezer” mound in the next chapter. Like the traditional feasts, this will remain an important reminder for Israel in the future of God’s work in the past.

For those raised in the wilderness, this event is symbolically reminiscent of the Red Sea crossing; like its counterpart 40 years earlier, it reveals to the people God’s power over nature and His victory over any obstacle that stands in the way over those who follow Him.

Joshua, chapter 2: Scouting Ahead, Promise Made

v.1: As Moses did before him, Joshua sends spies into Canaan to scout it out; after forty years, the situation may be different than it was when Joshua and Caleb (the only two survivors of the previous generation) first scouted it out. Joshua recommends Jericho specifically because (given the point where they will cross into Canaan) it acts as a gateway/barrier to the Promised Land, being a well-fortified city. In scouting out the land, they use the home of a local woman named Rahab as a cover, as it might not have be considered unusual or suspicious for them to lodge there (her house doubled as an inn and brothel).

v.2-7: The king of Jericho (Rahab’s city-state) gets wind that Israel’s spies are there, and he sends his troops to capture them. She hides the two men under flax plants on the roof (as another business, she may have woven cloth or at least supplied material for making it) and sends Jericho’s soldiers on a wild goose chase.

v.8-14: Rahab reveals that Israel’s reputation precedes them; their miraculous deliverance from Egypt (one of the mightiest empires of the day) and conquest of two kingdoms of the Amorites (cousins to the Ammonites, descendants of Abraham’s nephew Lot) east of the Jordan has already inspired fear in the peoples of Canaan. Because Rahab has helped Israel, she requests that Israel be gracious in return. When Jericho is conquered, Rahab’s family will be spared.

v.15-22: Here, we learn of special details. The walls of Jericho were so thick that Rahab’s house was built into a portion of it. Rahab helps the spies escape by letting them down to the ground with a rope; as a measure of accountability, they ask that she tie the rope in the window (it will be a sign to Jericho and Israel together, saying “this is the woman who was a friend to Israel”) from then until Jericho is taken.

v.23-24: The spies report back to Joshua, and he is encouraged. God is already preparing the way for Israel (lacking equal weapons and military training) to do battle with their Canaanite foes and take possession of the land.

Joshua, chapter 1: Be strong and courageous

Quick recap: After 400 years of slavery in Egypt, God led the tribes of Israel into freedom using Moses as His prophet. Crossing the Red Sea, receiving bread from heaven, and being built into a nation at Mount Sinai has greatly changed the Hebrew people, but the older generation’s lack of faith dooms them to forty years in the wilderness. Now within sight of the Holy Land, Moses has departed from the world and the conquest of Canaan will soon commence under Joshua, son of Nun, of the tribe of Ephraim.

Even though Joshua has been a leader of Israel all through the wilderness wanderings, he is now faced with the greatest challenge of his life: after so many years as Moses’ protege, he is now nominal leader over Israel. He has led Israel’s soldiers many times, but ruling a nation must seem especially daunting; no doubt Joshua questions whether he is capable or worthy of filling Moses’ sandals. The Israelites must be questioning as well – at the brink of crossing, the greatest prophet of God is gone. What does this mean for Israel’s future? Will God keep His promise? Will He continue forward with them?

In this time of transition, God comes to Joshua and delivers a two-fold message – part of it is for him personally, and part will be shared with the nation.

God comes to Joshua and has a pep-talk with him; the first thing He says is the go-ahead for Israel to move into Canaan. God assures Joshua that His promise to give Israel the land still holds true, even laying out the specific boundaries. Verses 5 through 9 are God’s personal message to Joshua – all of Israel will look to him as an example, and God is telling Joshua exactly what he needs to be that example. Three times, Gods tells Joshua to be strong and of good courage (doing the right thing out of faith, not fear)

Joshua relays the news to the people; unlike the previous generation (in Numbers 13 & 14) who rejected God’s word (TWICE), they are physically and spiritually ready to enter the land and subdue it. The time has come – move it out, Israel!

A special arrangement is made for the descendants of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh who wish to settle the land on the Jordan’s eastern side. Their women and children will remain on the eastern land, but the men (of age to go to war) will proceed with the rest of Israel into Canaan. The implication seems to be that their families will be protected by God while they are away helping to provide a home for their fellow tribes of Israel.

The tribal leaders respond to Joshua; speaking on behalf of their families and clans, they pledge their support to Joshua. The two conditions they name: 1) God must be the driving force of Joshua’s leadership (as He was with Moses in the wilderness), 2) they encourage Joshua to be full of courage (reflecting God’s admonition to Joshua), so that he may lead them against the strong peoples of Canaan.

In Deuteronomy 32:44 and 34:9, we are told that Moses helped to prepare both Joshua and Israel for this moment; Moses has passed the mantle of leadership to Joshua, and God confirms that His presence rests with Joshua. The nation and Joshua are now ready; let’s move it out, Israel – Canaan awaits!

Esther, Part 5 (final)

July 19, 2012

It’s been a little while since I wrote on my Bible reading in the morning; here’s the conclusion of Esther. Having just flipped through “One Night with the King,” I’m having flashbacks of comparing the movie with the written Scripture. Fun times ☺

Following the execution of Haman, Mordecai is promoted to take his place. Having finally revealed her true identity, Esther no doubt had many things to explain to her husband. While it might seem like a big career jump, I’d say Mordecai earned it; having proven his humility and loyalty to the king time and again (first by saving his life, again by continuing his labor without demanding a due reward), not to mention being related to the queen and not using that connection to advance himself, one has to admire Mordecai for his character.

The trouble is, it’s not happy ending time; Haman is gone, but the edict he set in motion against the Jews still stands, and there is no way to reverse it. Fortunately, Mordecai and Esther gain permission from the king to write another edict to counter Haman’s; the Jews are now free to defend themselves against what would have been the unopposed attack of their enemies, and many who might have taken part in the attack are now afraid due to the Jews having found favor so high up in the kingdom.

When the appointed day comes, the tables are turned, and rather than being destroyed, the Jews instead conquer those who would destroy them. Among the fallen are Haman’s ten sons; with Haman having had quite a bone to pick with the Jews, his sons would only have tried to avenge their father’s death, and therefore are killed so that Haman’s hatred has no legacy. I can’t help but be reminded of Saul’s failure to obey back in 1st Samuel; his lack of obedience cost Israel so much in the centuries to come. In a similar way, I admire Esther’s courage, slow as it was to come; if she had not done so, she never would have come to such a place of honor among her people and Scripture itself.

Looking back through the whole Exilic period, it seems to me that the Jews have repeated history and yet done so in reverse as well. In the narrative from Genesis to Exodus, the Jews go from being in the favor of an empire to being its conquered servants; in Esther, Ezra, and Nehemiah, we see just the opposite occur. Mordecai’s position of power appears to recall Joseph’s prestige in Egypt; he is second only to the sovereign of the land, and he has arisen to such heights because of the will of GOD, to help save his people from disaster. It is truly amazing how GOD works in different situations with different people/generations and yet remains true to the same Truth and theme through it all.