Name of several Biblical personages.

In Hebrew (Deut. iii. 21; Judges ii. 7) and commonly (Judges ii. 7a; Ex. xvii. 9; Josh. i. 1) correspond to = "helped by Yhwh," the shorter form being = "help" or "one who helped" (Num. xiii. 8; Deut. xxxii. 44; here probably an error for ). The Septuagint has Ἰησους; the Vulgate, usually "Josue," but "Jesus" in Ecclus. (Sirach) xlvi. 1; I Macc. ii. 55; II Macc. xii. 15, identical with , the post-exilic form of the name.

  • 1. Biblical Data: The son of Nun; servant and successor of Moses. An Ephraimite (Num. xiii. 8), the grandson of Elishama, he is described as the chief of his tribe (I Chron. vii. 26, 27). At first named "Hoshea" (Num. xiii. 8 [A. V. "Oshea"]; Deut. xxxii. 44), he was called by Moses "Jehoshua" (Num. xiii. 16). Joshua first leaps into notice in the account of the defeat of the Amalekites in the desert, where he leads the picked troops of the Israelites (Ex. xvii. 8-14). Afterward he appears successively at the side of Moses as his servant (ib. xxiv. 13; xxxii. 17, 18); as the guardian of the Tabernacle (ib. xxxiii. 11); and as the zealous defender of Moses' prestige on the occasion of Eldad's and Medad's prophesying in the camp (Num. xi. 27-29). He is one of the spies sent to explore Canaan (ib. xiii. 9, 17). Returning from this errand, it is he who with Caleb allays the apprehension of the excited people, bravely taking the risk of being stoned to death (ib. xiv. 6-10). For this fidelity he and Caleb, alone of all the Israelites twenty years old and upward at the time of this episode, are to enter the promised land (ib. xiv. 30-38, xxvi. 65, xxxii. 12).
Appointed Moses' Successor.

Nevertheless, during the following thirty-eight years of the desert migration no further mention is made of him. But when Moses is apprised of his own impending death, Joshua is pointed out as the one man to carry to completion the great leader's unfinished task. Moses is bidden to lay his hand upon him—"a man in whom is the spirit"—and thus to give him charge as his successor; which command is carried out (ib. xxvii. 16 et seq.). Joshua is to preside over the division of the land (ib. xxxiv. 17), but must keep the compact entered into with Reuben, Gad, and the half of Manasseh (ib. xxxii. 28). God assures Joshua of success in the leadership (Deut. xxxi. 14, 23); and he as the designated successor is with Moses when the great prophet addresses his last counsel to the people (ib. xxxii. 44).

At Moses' death Joshua was filled with "the spirit of wisdom" (ib. xxxiv. 9). Upon him devolved a twofold duty: to conquer the land, and to apportion it among the tribes (Josh. i. 1-5). Yhwh Himself encouraged him to be strong and to cling to the Law, which was never to "depart out of his mouth." After enlisting the cooperation of the kindred east-Jordanic tribes (ib. i. 6-18), his first concern was to spy out Jericho (ib. ii. 1). On receiving the report of his emissaries (ib. ii. 23, 24) he gave the necessary instructions for the crossing by the Israelites of the Jordan (ib. iii. 1-13). With the Ark of the Covenant carried by the priests in the van, on the tenth day of the first month of the forty-first year after the Exodus the Israelites set out to conquer the land. The river, miraculously divided as long as the priests with the Ark remained in its bed, was crossed north of Adam; and in memory of this occurrence Joshua erected over the place where the priests had been stationed a monument of twelve stones (ib. iv. 9). He also ordered that one man from each tribe should take each another stone from that spot and deposit it on the western bank as a memorial (ib. iv. 1-8, xx. 24). Here, at Gilgal, Joshua pitched his camp and remained for some time; and in order that all might be able to participate in the Passover, he directed that every Hebrew that had been born in the desert should be circumcised (ib. v. 2-8).

Conquest of Jericho.

Jericho was the first city captured. After exploring it by spies Joshua invested it, finally capturing it in a miraculous manner (ib. v. 13-vi.). The ban was pronounced over the ruins, and all the inhabitants were destroyed save Rahab and her paternal family; they being spared because she had shown hospitality to the spies. Joshua became famous by this victory, but met a reverse at Ai in consequence of Achan's misdeed; however, after visiting condign punishment upon the offender he made himself master of the town, which was the key to the mountains rising west of the plain of Jericho. The Gibeonites made their peace with him, gaining advantageous terms by means of a clever ruse (ix. 3 et seq.). On Ebal and Gerizim he caused the blessings and the curses to be read (comp. Deut. xxvii.).

While Joshua was thus engaged in the north, five of the southern rulers made an alliance to punish Gibeon; but they were completely routed at Makkedah by Joshua, who had hastened to the assistance of the Gibeonites. It was during this battle that a furious hail-storm set in, proving more deadly than the sword (Josh. x. 11), and on this occasion also, at Joshua's command, the sun stood still upon Gibeon and the moon in the valley of Ajalon (ib. x. 12-13a). The fugitive five kings were discovered hiding in a cave at Makkedah. By Joshua's orders the cave was closed with huge stones until the pursuit was over, when it was reopened and the kings, after having been thoroughly humiliated, were slain, their bodies being hanged on trees until the evening, when they were taken down and cast into the cave. Then followed the conquest of Libnah, Lachish, Eglon, Hebron, and Debir. In the south Joshua penetrated as far as Kadesh-barnea; in the west as far as Gaza (ib. x. 29 et seq.). Later onhe routed the allied kings of the north at Lake Merom—Hazor being the head of these kingdoms—killing the inhabitants and burning the city of Hazor (ib. xi.).

Division of the Land.

In this manner Joshua within a few years (ib. xiv. 7; comp. verse 10) had made himself master of the whole country with the exception of the Philistine and Phenician coasts. Still he continued to guard in Gilgal his fortified camp; thence he governed the land (ib. xiv. 6), and there he began to allot the districts to the various tribes. Judah, Ephraim, and the half of Manasseh were the first to be settled, Caleb being allowed to take Hebron (ib. xiv. 12, xv.-xvii.). After this, Joshua removed the Tabernacle and the Ark from Gilgal to Shiloh, and took up his residence there (ib. xviii.). Here he continued the work of apportioning the rest of the land by lot according to the families (ib. xviii.-xix.). Cities of refuge, in accordance with the Law, were appointed (ib. xx.). Joshua himself received the city of Timnath-serah in Ephraim for an inheritance (ib. xix. 49, 50; xxiv. 30). Having thus completed his task, he gave Reuben, Gad, and the half of Manasseh permission to return to their east-Jordanic territory (ib. xxii. 1-9).

When he was "old and stricken in age" Joshua convened the elders and chiefs of the Israelites and exhorted them to have no fellowship with the native population (ib. xxiii.). At a general assembly of the clans at Shechem he took leave of the people, admonishing them to be loyal to their God, who had been so mightily manifested in the midst of them (ib. xxiv.). As a witness of their promise to serve Yhwh, Joshua set up a great stone under an oak by the sanctuary of Yhwh (ib. xxiv. 26-28). Soon afterward he died, at the age of 110, and was buried in Timnath-serah (ib. xxiv. 29-30).

E. G. H.—In Rabbinical Literature:

Joshua is regarded as the type of the faithful, humble, deserving, wise man. Biblical verses illustrative of these qualities and of their reward are applied to him. "He that waiteth on his master shall be honored" (Prov. xxvii. 18) is construed as a reference to Joshua (Num. R. xii.), as is also the first part of the same verse, "Whoso keepeth the fig-tree shall eat the fruit thereof" (Yalḳ., Josh. 2; Num. R. xii. 21). That "honor shall uphold the humble in spirit" (Prov. xxix. 23) is proved by Joshua's victory over Amalek (Num. R. xiii.). Joshua was a wise man; hence in him was verified the saying, "With me [wisdom] kings shall rule" (Prov. viii. 15, Hebr.). Not the sons of Moses—as Moses himself had expected—but Joshua was appointed successor to the son of Amram (Num. R. xii.). Moses was shown how Joshua reproved Othniel (Yalḳ., Num. 776). Joshua's manliness recommended him for this high post. David referred to him in Ps. lxxxvii. 25, though without mentioning the name, lest dissensions should arise between his sons and those of his brothers (Yalḳ., quoting Sifre, l.c.).

His Faithful Service.

Joshua was always at the front of the army, and did not, as other generals, remain in the rear (ib.) or in his tent. Moses in his lifetime appointed Joshua as his interpreter ("meturgeman"), in order to forestall the possibility of his being looked upon as an upstart after Moses' death (Yalḳ., l.c.). Yet Moses' face was like the sun, and that of Joshua like the moon (ib.). Joshua had deserved the honor by his faithful service. He used to rise early in the morning and set in order the chairs in the house of assembly. Therefore, according to some, Moses raised up Joshua from the ground and took him on his knees, and he and the whole of Israel would lift up their heads to hear Joshua's words; but Joshua in his modesty exclaimed: "Blessed be Yhwh, who gave the Torah to Israel through Moses, our master" (Yalḳ., l.c., quoting the Midrash Yelammedenu). The wisdom of Joshua is emphasized also in other connections (Ex. R. xi. and parallels). The prediction (Deut. xxxiii. 17) in the blessing of Moses is held to have come to pass in Joshua (Sifre, ad loc.). Moses possessed "hod" (splendor), but Joshua, only "hadar" (a lesser degree of fame; according to Friedmann, Sifre, 146b, note 11, this has reference to the fact that kingship was denied to Joshua); for if the former had been Joshua's portion he would have been absolutely irresistible. Joshua was given the strength of the ox but the beauty of the "re'em" (Sifre, l.c.; Yalḳ., Deut. 959). When Joshua upon his return with the spies found the people ungrateful, he was the only one that was shocked to the extent of both falling on his face, like Moses and Aaron, and rending his garments, like Caleb (Yalḳ., Num. 744).

The Change in His Name.

Moses added the letter י to the name "Hoshea" (Num. xiii. 16) because he had prayed that God () would keep Joshua from joining the conspiracy of the spies, and also because, as Caleb's reward was a portion of the land, Joshua's compensation was to be his own allotment and that of the other ten (= "yod") spies (Soṭah 34b; Tan. ad loc.; Num. R. xvi.). According to Yer. Sheb. vi. 1, the name "Hoshea" was changed as soon as Joshua entered the service of Moses, or at the latest after the victory over Amalek.

Joshua was among those who, too modest to call themselves " 'ebed," were so dignified by God Himself (Sifre, Wa'etḥanan, cited in Yalḳ., Josh. 1). The spies whom Joshua sent to Jericho were Phinehas and Caleb (Yalḳ., l.c.). When Joshua commanded the sun to stand still he used the phrase (= "be still"; Josh. x. 12); for the sun kept on singing a song of praise as long as it was moving. The sun would not obey Joshua until he had assured it that he would sing God's praises himself (Yalk., l.c. 22). Joshua led and governed the people during thirty-eight years (Seder 'Olam R.; Yalḳ., l.c. 35). Israel is represented by the Rabbis as not very eager to pay him honor at his obsequies (Yalḳ., l.c.).

Married to Rahab.

Rahab is said to have become Joshua's wife. They had daughters but no son. From this union many prophets descended, and Hannah was Rahab's reincarnation. Rahab was ten years old when Israel left Egypt, and during the forty years intervening she was a great sinner; but when the spies visited her she became a proselyte. There is some doubt as to her having had only daughters by Joshua(see Zeb. 116b; Mek., Yitro [beginning]; Rashi to Josh. ii.; Yalḳ., Josh. 9; Meg. 14a; Gedaliah ibn Yaḥya, "Shalshelet ha-Ḳabbalah," p. 14a).

According to Pirḳe R. El. xlii., when Joshua was fighting for the Gibeonites the Sabbath was about to set in. Seeing the disinclination of his people to continue the battle at the risk of desecrating the Sabbath, and perceiving that the magicians of the heathen were inciting the constellations to help the cause of Israel's enemies, he spread out his hand toward the light of the sun and of the moon and "remembered upon them" the Ineffable Name, when both sun and moon stood still for thirty-six hours (Yalḳ., Gen. Lek Leka). The song intoned by Joshua after his victory is given in full in the "Sefer ha-Yashar" (chapter on Joshua). Joshua had appealed to Israel before crossing the Jordan not, as the text has it in the literal sense, to prepare provisions for the journey—that was not necessary, since the manna had not yet ceased falling—but to repent (Pirḳe R. El. vi.).

Joshua's name is associated with many "taḳḳanot," e.g., the benediction upon entering the holy land (Ber. 48b); the license to graze on the plowed field of others without liability to a charge of robbery (B. Ḳ. 60b); the permission to gather wood in a neighbor's field (ib. 61b); the permission to gather grass anywhere (ib.); and seven other measures enumerated in Maimonides ("Yad," Nizḳe Mamon, viii. 5), regulating certain privileges, permitting certain natural or necessary acts (in open fields or when walking through vineyards), and assuring to the unknown dead buried by the community the undisturbed possession of his grave (see Dead, Duty to the; Bloch, "Die Institutionen des Judentums," i. 54-68, Vienna, 1879).

E. G. H.—Critical View:

Joshua's historical reality has been doubted by advanced critics, who regard him either as a mythological solar figure (Winckler, "Gesch. des Volkes Israel," ii. 96-122; Schrader, "K. A. T." 3d ed., p. 225) or as the personification of tribal reminiscences crystallized around a semi-mythical hero of Timnath-serah (= "Timnat Ḥeres"). Eduard Meyer, denying the historicity of the material in the Book of Joshua, naturally disputes also the actuality of its eponymous hero (Stade's "Zeitschrift," i.). These extreme theories must be dismissed. But, on the other hand, it is certain that Joshua could not have performed all the deeds recorded of him. Comparison with the Book of Judges shows that the conquest of the land was not a concerted movement of the nation under one leader; and the data concerning the occupation of the various districts by the tribes present so many variants that the allotment in orderly and purposed sequence, which is ascribed to Joshua, has to be abandoned as unhistorical.

Leader of Josephites.

Yet this does not conflict with the view that Joshua was the leader of a section of the later nation, and that he as such had a prominent part in the conquest of the districts lying around Mount Ephraim. The conquest of the land as a whole was not attempted; this final achievement was the result of several successive movements of invasion that with varied success, and often with serious reverses, aimed at securing a foothold for the Israelites in the trans-Jordanic territories. Joshua was at the head of the Josephite (Leah) tribes (comp. Judges i. 22, according to Budde; Joshua dies at the age of 110, as does Joseph), for whom the possession of the hill-country of Ephraim—Gibeon in the south and Ebal in the north—was the objective point. This invasion on the part of the Josephites was probably preceded by others that had met with but little success (comp. the story of the spies, Num. xiv.). But the very fact that while earlier expeditions had failed this one succeeded impressed for centuries the imagination of the people to such an extent that the leader of this invasion (Joshua) became the hero of folk-lore; and in course of time the plan of the conquest of the whole land and its execution were ascribed to him. He thus grew to be in tradition the leader of the united people—especially in view of the supremacy enjoyed by the tribe of Joseph, in whose possession was the Ark at Shiloh—and therefore the successor of Moses, and as such the chief in authority when the land was divided among the tribes.

Recollections of valorous feats performed in the days of these fierce wars with the aboriginal kings were transferred to Joshua and his time; battles remembered in fable and in song were connected with his name; natural phenomena (the blocking of the waters of Jordan by rocks, the earthquake at Jericho, the hail-storm before Gibeon) which had inspired semi-mythological versions were utilized to enhance his fame, all the more since they helped to vindicate his dignity as a second Moses. Snatches of popular songs, no longer understood because their original mythology had become unintelligible, were applied to his feats, and in turn gave rise to new accounts of his marvelous accomplishments (e.g., at Ajalon). This process is perfectly natural, and has its analogues in the stories concerning other heroes; in fact parallels between his biography and that of Jacob have been discovered (Steuernagel, "Joshua," p. 150). But all this makes the historical reality of Joshua as the chief of a successful army of invasion all the more strongly assured. The chapters dealing with the division of the land must be dismissed as theoretical speculation, dating from a period when the tribal organization had ceased to exist; that is, from the Exile and perhaps later. The epilogues (the story of Joshua's gathering the elders or the whole people at Shechem before his death, Josh. xxiii.-xxiv. 28) are clearly the work of a Deuteronomic writer; and the scenes are conceived in imitation of Jacob's blessing (Gen. xlix.) or of Moses taking leave of the people and admonishing them before his transition. The cruelty imputed to Joshua—the ban against Jericho, for instance—is a trait corroborative of the historical kernel of the military incidents of his biography.

According to the Biblical accounts, Joshua had nowhere to meet a non-Canaanite power. The Flinders Petrie inscription recording Me(r)neptah's battle with Israel, located in Palestine (before 1200 B.C.; see Exodus), is thus not to be referred to this period. Egypt's claim to suzerainty had become merely nominal after 1250 B.C. The empire of theHittites (c. 1200) had become disrupted into a number of small principalities. This would indicate that the incursion of Joseph-Israel must have taken place about 1230-1200 B.C.

E. G. H.
  • 2. Son of Jozadak or Josedech; high priest when the Jews returned under Zerubbabel from the Babylonian exile. His father had died in exile, and on the return from the Captivity Joshua was the first high priest to officiate (Hag. i. 1, 12, 14; ii. 2, 4; Zech. vi. 11; Ezra iii. 2, 8; v. 2; x. 18; Neh. xii. 26). Joshua was therefore born during the Exile. On the arrival of the caravan at Jerusalem, he naturally took part in erecting the altar of burnt offering and in laying the foundations of the Temple (Ezra iii. 2 et seq.). With Zerubbabel he opposed the machinations of the Samaritans (ib. iv. 3). Several of Haggai's utterances are addressed to Joshua (Hag. i. 1, ii. 2), and his name occurs in two of the symbolical prophecies of Zechariah (iii. 1-10, vi. 11-15). He is eulogized in Ecclus. (Sirach) xlix. 12, in the list of worthies, as one who "builded the house and exalted a people holy to the Lord, prepared for everlasting glory." In Ezra (ii., iii., iv., v., x.) and Nehemiah (vii. 7; xii. 1, 7, 10, 26) he is called "Jeshua."
E. G. H. B. P.