The sixth book in the OT. It describes the occupation of the Promised Land under Joshua, Moses’ successor. Although in Jewish tradition the book belongs to the Former Prophets, the historical and theological links are with the Pentateuch, in that the book represents the last phase in the story of God’s promise to Israel first mentioned in Gen. 12: 1–3 and at last realized in the occupation of the land, recorded in Deuteronomy. It is a collection of diverse material probably edited by the Deuteronomic school during the Exile in Babylon and cannot be considered a reliable historical narrative. For example, the reported capture of Jericho (Josh. 6) has no support from the archaeological investigations of Kathleen Kenyon in 1952–8. The main thrust of the Jericho story (Josh. 6) with the procession of priests seven times suggests more a liturgical model than a military manoeuvre. The views of this school are impressed upon the narrative: the land was a gift from Yahweh and, so long as the people were faithful to the covenant, they would retain it. But there must be no religious syncretism with Canaanite cults; the existing inhabitants were to be annihilated (Josh. 11: 20), though in fact they were not totally destroyed (Judg. 3: 1). Much of the book details the arrangement for the distribution of land amongst the tribes. It emphasizes the importance of the tribal structure and of the family within the tribe. Each tribe retained its own individuality and character, but under Yahweh they are bound together by the covenant into one nation. There is a single sanctuary (Shiloh) and the Ark of the Covenant is prominent.
The book's conclusion, with Joshua’s burial, is reminiscent of the burial of the patriarch Joseph—a connection with the nation’s early history.