Joshua: The Movie by Robert L. Hubbard Jr.
Joshua part 2
But if there were, its hero would be Joshua—played by someone like Tom Hanks or Russell Crowe. My last blog explained how we got the book of Joshua. Here I introduce the person who gave the book its name and sketch out a few scenes that would, indeed, make a good movie.
"Joshua," Scene 1. Surprise! Joshua makes his biblical debut, not in Joshua 1, but in Exodus 17. There—and out of the blue—Moses tasks him with leading Israel’s defense against some Amalekite raiders. Joshua’s victory—the first in Israel’s short history—early confirms the leadership abilities later on display in Canaan.
Another surprise: after the victory, Yahweh orders Moses to make sure that Joshua hears God’s promise to wipe out Amalek (v. 14). Implicitly, this hints that Joshua would eventually succeed Moses. Of course, Joshua will have to wait forty years to take over!
"Joshua," Scene 2: His First Spoken Lines. Joshua next appears as Moses’ aide while Israel stayed at Mount Sinai to receive Yahweh’s instructions (Exod. 24:13). Joshua’s first reported words may reveal something of his military instincts. As he and Moses descend Mount Sinai, they hear shouting coming from the direction of Israel’s camp. Joshua comments, "There is the sound of war in the camp" (Exod. 32:17). Alas, Joshua gets it wrong. In reality, the ruckus was the sound of Israel worshipping the Golden Calf. But, for sure, Joshua reacted like a good military officer!
"Joshua," Scene 3: His Second Spoken Lines. This scene happens during Israel’s itinerary through the wilderness toward Canaan. Two Israelite men are prophesying, and Joshua’s second reported words passionately plead: "Moses, my lord, stop them!" (Num 11:28). Of course, Moses rejects the plea, saying "I wish that all the LORD's people were prophets …" (Num. 11:29). That was a good lesson for the young leader from his mentor, Moses: dependence on God’s spirit is crucial.
"Joshua," Scene 4: His Fateful Choice. Joshua is one of the twelve spies Moses sends north from the desert to scope out Canaan (Num. 13:7). The spies’ later debrief—10 spies for going back to Egypt, 2 for going ahead to Canaan (Joshua, Caleb)—throws the Israelite camp into an uproar. But the fateful choices marks a turning point in the plot: Yahweh decrees that only Joshua and Caleb will enter the land; everyone else will die in the desert (Num. 14:6, 30, 38; 26:65).
"Joshua," Scene 5: The Transition. As the forty-year wilderness period nears its end, Yahweh has Moses publicly commission Joshua, his long-time "aide," as his successor. The scene is big-time dramatic: the high priest presides and the whole nation watches as Moses lays his hands on Joshua. Symbolically, Moses effects Joshua’s appointment as Israel’s next leader (Num. 27:18-23).
"Joshua," A Quick Collage. Several brief scenes advance the transition from Moses to Joshua:
"Joshua," Scene 6: The Climax. In this climactic scene, as Israel watches, Moses affirms that Joshua will lead Israel into the land. He charges him to be "strong and courageous" (Deut. 31:3, 7). Then the two leaders stand before the tabernacle so that Yahweh himself may commission Joshua (Deut. 31:14). Yahweh reiterates Moses’ charge to Joshua ("be strong and courageous") and promises Joshua success and his own powerful presence (v. 23). Later, Joshua accompanies Moses while the latter sings his lengthy farewell song before all Israel (Deut. 32:44).
"Joshua," Scene 7: Show Time! After Moses’ death, Israel is still camped east of the Jordan River, able to look across at Canaan. In a private conversation, Yahweh formally addresses Joshua as Israel’s new leader (Josh. 1:1-9). Israel readily accepts his leadership—he had received Moses’ "spirit of wisdom" (Deut. 34:9). The book of Joshua traces its hero’s successes and rise in public stature. Now that you’ve seen the movie, you’ll have to read the book!
"Joshua," Closing Credits. What spiritual qualities set Joshua apart? Two biblical phrases summarize his key traits. First, he has God’s spirit (Num. 27:18 ["a man in whom is the spirit"]). God’s power and guidance infuse his leadership. Second, he shows a consistent pattern of obedience (Num. 32:12 ["followed the LORD wholeheartedly"]). Unlike other Israelites, he continued to trust God to keep his promise of land to Israel. He’s hero worthy of a movie—but, more important, an example worth following.
Robert L. Hubbard, Jr. (PhD, Claremont Graduate School) is Professor of Biblical Literature at North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago, IL. He also taught at Denver Seminary and served as a chaplain on active duty in the United States Navy and in the United States Naval Reserve. Dr. Hubbard is author of The Book of Ruth: New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Eerdmans, 1988), which received the Christianity Today Critics Choice Award as the best commentary of 1989. He co-authored Introduction to Biblical Interpretation (Word, 1993), with William Klein and Craig Blomberg, and Joshua in the NIV Application Commentary series. He is ordained by the Evangelical Free Church of America. He and his wife Pam reside in Chicago.
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