22 May 2012

The missions of the two Joshuas: a study in parallels and contrasts

by Dan Phillips

Recently I went through the books of Joshua and Matthew in my daily reading, and noticed an interesting parallel/contrast in missions.

Note the opening words of Joshua. Yahweh says this to the newly-minted general:
"Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel.  3 Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses.  4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory.  5 No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.  6 Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them.  7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.  8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.  9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." (Josh 1:2-9)
We could enumerate the elements like this:
  1. Moses is dead
  2. I (own the earth and) have given you land in Canaan as your possession
  3. (Exercise My dominion by) driving out or killing all the inhabitants, and take the land
  4. Be careful to learn and do My commandments, and
  5. I will be with you
Some 1400 years later another "Joshua" comes along. He also gives a commission, and this commission is also occasioned by death. However, in this case, the death was His own, and death was not the last word. Also, in this case it is not He who receives the commission with Yahweh's authority, but He who gives the commission with Yahweh's authority.
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.  17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.

 18 And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matt. 28:16-20)
Note the similarity and contrast in the elements.
  1. I have died -- and risen again
  2. All authority in heaven and earth has been given Me, and therefore...
  3. (Exercise My dominion by) making students from all nations
  4. Be careful to teach them to keep My commands, and
  5. I will be with you
The two "Joshua's" had missions that were at the same time very similar, and very different.

Dan Phillips's signature


R.C. said...

Careful there brother. Next thing you know you might be noticing a connection between Israel and the church. Seriously, well done, and thank you.

naturgesetz said...

There are many types of Jesus in the OT. That's one I hadn't thought of before.

Of course, it also means that Joshua is a type of the Apostles, and of us who must know make disciples and teach, knowing that the Lord is still with us.

naturgesetz said...

"who must bnow make disciples"

Joanna said...


Andrea said...

R.C., one may well make that connection. Fortunately most of know better than to conclude that a connection means they have to be identical. :)

After all, unless one believes in the (way non-biblical) concept of re-incarnation, Jesus can not actually *be* Joshua.

Wow. Look at that.

This time a year ago, I would not even have understood the joke in the first comment. I attend a Presbyterian church with a pastor whose (excellent and very scripture based) sermons are decidedly covenental in their perspective. I was pretty much unaware before I started reading here and over at BC that there was any other credible way to look at things.

Now that I see my gut reaction to R.C.'s comment in print, I think that I must have become a dispensationalist. When did that happen?

Sorry for the off topic and hope I'm not too strident. I add my thanks for the excellent post.

DJP said...

"When did that happen?"

Keep reading that Bible and taking all of it seriously long enough, and that sort of thing happens a lot.

Carl C. said...

For an assignment in a college class (Poetical Books) I remember slapping together a paper last-minute paralleling Psalm 23 and Job 23. I saved it, and laugh whenever I see it. The associations were contrived, strained at best - and all for a grade. Thankfully the prof called my bluff, in no uncertain amounts of red ink.

Yours actually has meat to it, real connections! Thanks.

Manfred said...

DJP - that is a wonderful, truthful comparison, showing how the Lord used shadows and types to prefigure and point to and remind of the promised Christ. Well done!

Contrived it was not, not strained. It was gently stirred :-)

Carl C. said...


Agreed. I intended to make a stark contrast between my immature approach, and Dan's thoughtful insights.

Pastor Michael said...


Recently I became aware of the parallel you describe, albeit as part of a larger motif.
Listening to G. K. Beale speaking at the 2007 Clarus conference, (http://www.desertspringschurch.org/messages/By_Series/Clarus_07/) he makes a compelling exegetical case that the mission of the church as described in Matthew 28 is a continuation of the mission given to Adam in Genesis 1:28: to guard and expand the proper worship of God. He shows how this "temple motif" flows through the entire Bible, culminating with the final dwelling of God with man in Revelation 21.

After Adam's failure, Noah and the patriarchs, followed by Moses and Joshua, followed by the Judges and Kings, each take on this mission which is finally fulfilled perfectly by Jesus, and then continued by the church.

I mention this to you because I already had a high, high view of the church, and being made aware of this pattern has gotten me yet more excited about the awesome privilege and scary responsibility of being a pastor.