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Lanfranco Moses and the Messengers from Canaan.jpg
Moses and the Messengers from Canaan, by Giovanni Lanfranco, oil on canvas, 85-3/4 x 97 inches, at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, United States
Died Canaan
Venerated in Judaism, Christianity, Islam
Major shrine Tomb of Joshua
Attributes Often depicted with Caleb, carrying the grapes out of Canaan

Joshua /ˈɒʃuə/ or Jehoshua (Hebrew: יְהוֹשֻׁעַ Yĕhôshúʿa or Hebrew: יֵשׁוּעַ Yĕshúʿa; Aramaic: ܝܫܘܥIsho; Greek: Ἰησοῦς, Arabic: يوشع بن نون‎‎ Yūshaʿ ibn Nūn; Latin: Iosue, Turkish: Yuşa), is a figure in the Torah, being one of the spies for Israel (Num 13–14) and identified in several passages as Moses' assistant.[3] He is the central figure in the Hebrew Bible's Book of Joshua. According to the books of Exodus, Numbers and Joshua, he became the leader of the Israelite tribes after the death of Moses. His name was Hoshe'a (הוֹשֵׁעַ) the son of Nun, of the tribe of Ephraim, but Moses called him Yehoshu'a (יְהוֹשֻעַ; Joshua in English) (Numbers 13:16) the name by which he is commonly known. The name is shortened to Yeshua in Nehemiah (Nehemiah 8:17). According to the Bible he was born in Egypt prior to the Exodus.[2]

He was one of the twelve spies of Israel sent by Moses to explore the land of Canaan. (Numbers 13:1-16) After the death of Moses, he led the Israelite tribes in the conquest of Canaan, and allocated the land to the tribes. According to Biblical chronology, Joshua lived between 1355-1245 BCE,[4] or sometime in the late Bronze Age. According to Joshua 24:29, Joshua died at the age of 110.

Joshua also holds a position of respect among Muslims. According to Islamic tradition, he was, along with Caleb, one of the two believing spies whom Moses had sent to spy the land of Canaan.[5] All Muslims also see Joshua as the leader of the Israelites, following the death of Moses. Some Muslims also believe Joshua to be the "attendant" of Moses mentioned in the Qur’ān, before Moses meets Khidr and some believe that he is a prophet.


The English name "Joshua" is a rendering of the Hebrew language "Yehoshua", meaning "Yahweh is salvation".[6][7] The vocalization of the second name component may be read as Hoshea - the name used in the Torah before Moses added the divine name (Numbers 13:16).[8]

"Jesus" is the English of the Greek transliteration of "Yehoshua" via Latin. In the Septuagint, all instances of the word "Yehoshua" are rendered as "Ἰησοῦς" (Iēsoūs), the closest Greek pronunciation of the Aramaic: ܝܫܘܥIsho (Hebrew word #3443 in Strong's Concordance, Nehemiah 8:17).[9][10] Thus in Greek Joshua is called "Jesus son of Naue" (τοῦ Ναυή) to differentiate him from Jesus Christ. This is also true in the Slavic languages following the Eastern Orthodox tradition (e.g. "Иисус Навин" (Iisús Navín) in Russian).

Biblical narrative

The Exodus

"The Children of Israel Crossing the Jordan" by Benjamin West, 1800

Joshua was a major figure in the events of the Exodus. He was charged by Moses with selecting and commanding a militia group for their first battle after exiting Egypt, against the Amalekites in Rephidim (Exodus 17:8-16), in which they were victorious.

He later accompanied Moses when he ascended biblical Mount Sinai to commune with God,[11] visualize God's plan for the Israelite tabernacle and receive the Ten Commandments. Joshua was with Moses when he descended from the mountain, heard the Israelites' celebrations around the Golden Calf,[12] and broke the tablets bearing the words of the commandments. Similarly, in the narrative which refers to Moses being able to speak with God in his tent of meeting outside the camp, Joshua is seen as custodian of the tent ('tabernacle of meeting') when Moses returned to the Israelite encampment.[13] However, when Moses returned to the mountain to re-create the tablets recording the Ten Commandments, Joshua was not present, as the biblical text states 'no man shall come up with you'.[14]

Later, Joshua was identified as one of the twelve spies sent by Moses to explore and report on the land of Canaan (Numbers 13:16-17), and only he and Caleb gave an encouraging report, a reward for which would be that only these two of their entire generation would enter the promised land (Numbers 14:22-24).

According to Joshua 1:1-9, God appointed Joshua to succeed Moses as leader of the Israelites along with giving him a blessing of invincibility during his lifetime (Joshua 1:5).[15][16] The first part of the book of Joshua covers the period when he led the conquest of Canaan.

Conquest of Canaan

Joshua Commanding the Sun to Stand Still upon Gibeon by John Martin

At the Jordan River, the waters parted, as they had for Moses at the Red Sea. The first battle after the crossing of the Jordan was the Battle of Jericho. Joshua led the destruction of Jericho, then moved on to Ai, a small neighboring city to the west. However, they were defeated with thirty-six Israelite deaths. The defeat was attributed to Achan taking an "accursed thing" from Jericho; and was followed by Achan and his family and animals being stoned to death to restore God's favor. Joshua then went to defeat Ai.

The Israelites faced an alliance of Amorite kings from Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon. At Gibeon Joshua asked Yahweh to cause the sun and moon to stand still, so that he could finish the battle in daylight. This event is most notable because "there was no day like that before it or after it, that the Yahweh hearkened unto the voice of a man: for the Yahweh fought for Israel." (Joshua 10:14) God also fought for the Israelites in this battle, for he hurled huge hailstones from the sky which killed more Canaanites than those which the Israelites slaughtered. From there on, Joshua was able to lead the Israelites to several victories, securing much of the land of Canaan.


Joshua's Tomb in Kifl Haris, April 2007
Joshua's Tomb in Jordan

When he was "old and well advanced in years",[17] Joshua convened the elders and chiefs of the Israelites and exhorted them to have no fellowship with the native population, because it could lead them to be unfaithful to God.[18] 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. As a witness of their promise to serve God, Joshua set up a great stone under an oak by the sanctuary of God. Soon afterward he died, at the age of 110, and was buried at Timnath Serah, in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash.[19]


The prevailing scholarly view is that Joshua is not a factual account of historical events.[20] The apparent setting of Joshua is the 13th century BCE,[20] a time of widespread city-destruction, but with a few exceptions (Hazor, Lachish) the destroyed cities are not the ones the Bible associates with Joshua, and the ones it does associate with him show little or no sign of even being occupied at the time.[21]

Carolyn Pressler, in a recent commentary for the Westminster Bible Companion series, suggests that readers of Joshua should give priority to its theological message ("what passages teach about God") and be aware of what these would have meant to audiences in the 7th and 6th centuries BCE.[22] Richard Nelson explains, "The needs of the centralised monarchy favoured a single story of origins combining old traditions of an exodus from Egypt, belief in a national god as "divine warrior," and explanations for ruined cities, social stratification and ethnic groups, and contemporary tribes."[23]

Authorship of the biblical Joshua narrative is ascribed to Joshua himself by Bava Batra 15a (Talmud) and early church fathers, but in 1943 Martin Noth published an argument that behind Joshua and other books was a unified "Deuteronomistic history", composed in the early part of the Babylonian captivity (6th century BCE). Most scholars today believe in some such composite, containing the epic history of the premonarchical period.[24]

The first record of the name Israel occurs in the Merneptah stele, erected for Egyptian Pharaoh Merneptah c. 1209 BCE, "Israel is laid waste and his seed is not."[25] William Dever sees this "Israel" in the central highlands as a cultural and probably political entity, well enough established to be perceived by the Egyptians as a possible challenge to their hegemony, but an ethnic group rather than an organised state.[26]

The number of villages in the highlands increased to more than 300 by the end of Iron Age I[27] (more and larger in the north), with the settled population rising from 20,000 in the twelfth century to 40,000 in the eleventh.[28] The villagers probably shared the highlands with other communities such as pastoral nomads, but only villagers left sufficient remains to determine their settlement patterns.[29] Archaeologists and historians see more continuity than discontinuity between these highland settlements and the preceding Late Bronze Age Canaanite culture.[30] Certain features, such as ceramic repertoire and agrarian settlement plans, have been said to be distinctives of highland sites,[31] and collar-rimmed jars and four-roomed houses have been said to be intrinsically "Israelite", but have also been said to belong to a commonly shared culture throughout Iron I Canaan.[32] While some archaeologists interpret the absence of pig bones from the highland sites as an indicator of ethnicity,[33] this is not certain.[34] Villages had populations of up to 300 or 400,[28][35] which lived by farming and herding and were largely self-sufficient;[36] economic interchange was prevalent.[37]

According to Ann E. Killebrew, "Most scholars today accept that the majority of the conquest narratives in the book of Joshua are devoid of historical reality".[38][39]

The question of the degrees of conquest and/or assimilation may not be answered with certainty, as both sides cite a large body of archaeological and other evidence.[40]

Joshua and the Israelite people, Karolingischer Buchmaler, c.840


In rabbinical literature

In rabbinic Jewish literature Joshua is regarded as a faithful, humble, deserving, wise man. Biblical verses illustrative of these qualities and of their reward are applied to him. "He that waits on his master shall be honored" (Pro. xxvii. 18) is construed as a reference to Joshua (Midrash Numbers Rabbah xii.), as is also the first part of the same verse, "Whoso keepes the fig-tree shall eat the fruit thereof" (Midrash Yalk., Josh. 2; Numbers Rabbah xii. 21). That "honor shall uphold the humble in spirit" (Pro. xxix. 23) is proved by Joshua's victory over Amalek (Midrash Numbers Rabbah xiii). Not the sons of Moses — as Moses himself had expected — but Joshua was appointed successor to the son of Amram (Midrash Numbers Rabbah xii). Moses was shown how Joshua reproved that Othniel (Yalḳ., Num. 776). Joshua's manliness recommended him for this high post. David referred to him in Psalms 87:25 (Source?; there is no Psalm 87:25), though without mentioning the name, lest dissensions should arise between his sons and those of his brothers (Yalḳ., quoting Sifre).

In Christianity

Most modern Bibles translate Hebrews 4:8-10 to identify Jesus as a better Joshua, as Joshua led Israel into the rest of Canaan, but Jesus leads the people of God into "God's rest". Among the early Church Fathers, Joshua is considered a type of Jesus Christ.[41]

Legend has it that Mormon pioneers in the United States first referred to the yucca brevifolia agave plant as the Joshua Tree because its branches reminded them of Joshua stretching his arms upward in supplication, guiding the travelers westward.[42]


Joshua is not mentioned by name in the Qur’ān, but his name appears in other Islamic literature. In the Qur'anic account of the conquest of Canaan, Joshua and Caleb are referenced, but not named, as two "God-fearing men", on whom God "had bestowed His grace".[43]

They said: "O Moses! In this land are a people of exceeding strength: Never shall we enter it until they leave it: if (once) they leave, then shall we enter."
(But) among (their) God-fearing men were two on whom God had bestowed His grace. They said: "Assault them at the (proper) Gate: when once ye are in, victory will be yours; but on God put your trust if ye have faith."

— Qur'an, sura 5 (Al-Ma'ida), ayah 22-23[5]

His genealogy is given in Islam as Joshua (يوشع), the son of Nun, the son of Ephraim, the son of Joseph (يوسف), the son of Jacob (يعقوب), the son of Isaac (إسحق), the son of Abraham (إبراهيم).[44]

Although Joshua was regarded by some classical scholars as the prophetic successor to Moses (موسى),[45] others see him as a pious man but not a prophet. Tabari relates in his History of the Prophets and Kings that Joshua was one of the twelve spies and Muslim scholars believe that the two believing spies referred to in the Qur’ān are Joshua and Caleb. Joshua was exceptional among the Israelites for being one of the few faithful followers of God.

Joshua is further mentioned in Islamic literature, and significant events from his Muslim narratives include the crossing of the Jordan river and the conquest of Bait al-Maqdis.[46] But Muslim literature also preserves traditions of Joshua not found in the Hebrew Bible. Joshua is credited with being present at Moses's death and literature records that Moses's garments were with Joshua at the time of his departure.[47]

Joshua is believed to be buried on Joshua's Hill in the Beykoz district of Istanbul.[48]

Four Patron Saints of the Bosphorus

Along with Telli Baba, Aziz Mahmud Hudayi, and Yahya Efendi, the four are considered to be the Four Patron Saints of the Bosphorus.

In later literature


The annual commemoration of Joshua's yahrtzeit is marked on the 26th of Nisan on the Hebrew calendar. Thousands make the pilgrimage to the Tomb of Joshua in Kifl Haris on the preceding night.

See also


  1. (Greek) "Ὁ Ἅγιος Ἰησοῦς ὁ Δίκαιος". Megas Synaxaristis.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Righteous Joshua the son of Nun", Orthodox Church in America
  3. Michael D. Coogan, "A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament" page 166-167, Oxford University Press, 2009
  4. Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, V.1.28, says that Joshua died twenty years after the conquest of Canaan.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Quran 5:22–23
  6. A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament Francis Brown, with S.R. Driver and C.A. Briggs, based on the lexicon of William Gesenius. Oxford: Clarendon Press. p. 221 & 446
  7. Fausset's Bible Dictionary
  8. Joshua, New Bible Dictionary, second edition. 1987. Douglas JD, Hillyer N, eds., Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, IL, USA ISBN 0-8423-4667-8
  9. cf Numbers 13:16 LXX καὶ ἐπωνόμασεν Μωυσῆς τὸν Αὐσῆ υἱὸν Ναυῆ Ἰησοῦν (and Moses named Hosea, son of Naue, Jesus)
  10. The High Priest Jesus in Zechariah 3 LXX
  11. Exodus 24:13
  12. Exodus 32:17
  13. Exodus 33:11
  14. Exodus 34:3
  15. "Joshua Chapter 1". Retrieved October 2014. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Joshua Chapter 1 : Honour is here put upon Joshua, and great power lodged in his hand, by him that is ... him the administration, by virtue of his solemn ordination in Moses's life-time. ..... and it will entitle them to the best blessings: God shall give them the desire of ... be done, how invincible soever the difficulties may seem that lie in the way.
  17. Joshua 23:1-2
  18. Joshua 23:7-8, 23:12-13
  19. Joshua 24:29-30
  20. 20.0 20.1 McConville (2010), p.4
  21. Miller&Hayes, pp. 71–2.
  22. Pressler, pp.5–6
  23. Nelson, p.5
  24. Dever, William, "What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It?" (Eerdmans, 2001) 2001, p. 100.
  25. Stager in Coogan 1998, p. 91.
  26. Dever 2003, p. 206.
  27. McNutt 1999, p. 47.
  28. 28.0 28.1 McNutt 1999, p. 70.
  29. McNutt 1999, p. 69.
  30. Bright 2000, p. 472.
  31. Killebrew 2005, p. 13.
  32. Miller 1986, p. 72.
  33. Killebrew 2005, p. 176.
  34. Bright 2000, p. 473.
  35. Miller 2005, p. 98.
  36. McNutt 1999, p. 72.
  37. Miller 2005, p. 99.
  38. Biblical peoples and ethnicity: an archaeological study of Egyptians, Anne E. Killebrew, p. 186
  39. Miller 1977, 87–93; Van Seters 1983, 322–37; Schoors 1987, 77-92; Na'aman 1994b, 218-30, 249-50
  40. "Introduction to the Old Testament", chapter on Joshua, by T. Longman and R. Dillard, Zondervan Books (2006)
  41. Nichols, Aidan (2007). Lovely, Like Jerusalem: The Fulfillment of the Old Testament in Christ and the Church. Ignatius Press. p. 195.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  42. "Joshua Tree National Park",, National Park Service, retrieved 2013-05-27 |contribution= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  43. Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur'an: Text, Translation and Commentary, Note. 726 to verse 23: "Among those who returned after spying out the land were two men who had faith and courage. They were Joshua and Caleb. Joshua afterwards succeeded Moses in the leadership after 40 years. These two men pleaded for an immediate entry through the proper Gate, which I understand to mean, "after taking all due precautions and making all due preparations". Cf. 2:189 and n. 203. But of course, they said, they must put their trust in Allah for victory."
  44. Historical Dictionary of Prophets in Islam and Judaism, B. M. Wheeler, Joshua
  45. Joshua is mentioned as a prophet in Ibn Kathir's Stories of the Prophets
  46. Tabari, History of the Prophets and Kings, Vol. I: 414-29, 498-99, 503-516
  47. Encyclopedia of Islam, Vol. XI, pg. 351, 'Yusha ibn Nun [Joshua, son of Nun]

External links

Preceded by
Judge of Israel Succeeded by