5 Lessons I Learned By Studying The Life of Joshua


Seven years ago, a mentor of mine challenged me to study the life and character of Joshua.  I’m in the process of preparing for a speaking opportunity in which I’ll have the chance to talk about leadership, delegation, and leaving a legacy.  As I’ve been putting my thoughts together for my speech, I started thinking about the leadership path of Moses and Joshua, and I was reminded of this study.  I think we can learn a lot if we take time to dive in and learn.  Here’s what I learned by studying Joshua.

Joshua was the son of Nun (Ex. 33:11, Num. 11:28) from the tribe of Ephraim (Num. 13:8). He was born in Egypt into slavery.  His name was originally Hoshea (Num. 13:16), and Moses called him Joshua which means “Savior” or “the person by whom God will save.” This name is equivalent in the Greek to “Jesus” which also means “Savior.”   He lived for approximately the first 40 years of his life in Egypt in slavery. He lived in the wilderness with the Israelites for 40 years, and he lived in The Promised Land until he died at the age of 110 (Joshua 24:29). He probably lived during the late Bronze Age around 1200 B.C.

Joshua, then called Hoshea, was the commander of the first military campaign following the exodus from Egypt against the Amalekites (Ex. 17:8-16). Joshua was Moses’ right hand man. He was the only one who accompanied Moses on his visit up Mount Sinai (Ex. 24:12-13). He also was responsible for staying in the Tent of Meeting during the Israelites time in the wilderness (Ex 33:7-11). He was one of the 12 spies initially sent out to see Canaan (Num. 13:1, 8). He along with Caleb was one of the only two spies to bring back a positive report (Num. 14:6-8).

Joshua was appointed the leader of the Israelites by Moses after 40 years of mentoring in the wilderness, and he led the Israelites into the Promised Land (Deut. 31:1-8). He was also responsible for dividing up the land amongst the tribes of Israel (Joshua 13:8-21:45).

Joshua was reliable. This was obvious in the responsibilities that Moses heaped upon Joshua during his life and as he approached his death. Joshua was a strong leader. In Joshua 1:16, the Israelites committed themselves to following Joshua just as they had followed Moses. Joshua was a man of faith. Joshua’s positive report after spying in the land of Canaan provides an example of Joshua’s faith (Num. 14:6-8). Joshua stood up for what was right even if it seemed ridiculous as exemplified in the fall of Jericho (Joshua 5:13-6:27). He was dedicated to doing the right thing as was obvious through his response to Achan who disobeyed God’s instructions for the defeat of Jericho (Joshua 7:1-26). Joshua was humble before the Lord (Joshua 7:6-9; 8:30-31). He knew that God was responsible for his success and the success of the Israelites. Finally, I’m convinced that Joshua was strong and courageous. Multiple times Joshua is either told to be strong and courageous (Joshua 1:6,7,9) or he his encouraging the Israelites to be strong and courageous as they enter the Promised Land, and his final remarks even demonstrate this commitment to strength and courage (Joshua 23:6).

Joshua may have been a people pleaser. Despite God’s earlier instruction to completely destroy all the Canaanites, he caved into the lies and wishes of the Gibeonites and permitted them to live in the Promised Land alongside the Israelites (Joshua 9:1-27).

Overall, Joshua had a positive impact on others. He was the leader who helped the Israelites realize the promises originally given to Abraham. He led in a fair way and in a direct way.

(Obviously, Joshua had a negative impact on the Canaanites as they were almost completely destroyed by the Israelites under Joshua’s leadership.)

Joshua had a close relationship with God similar to his predecessor, Moses. Throughout the book of Joshua, it states “The Lord said to Joshua…” (Joshua 1:1; 3:7; 4:15; 5:2,9; 6:2; 7:10; 8:1; 11:6; 13:1; 20:1)

Overall, Joshua’s spiritual life seems to be fairly consistent. As indicated in the references above, he seemed to be in close communion with God. But Joshua was human, his spiritual life or connection with God seemed to be on vacation when he made the treaty with the Gibeonites. He relied on the feedback from his fellow Israelites instead of consulting with the Lord.

Joshua died at the age of 110 (which was considered the perfect age by the Egyptians – see the death of Joseph in Genesis 50:22-26). He provided a beautiful sendoff speech before he died (Joshua 23); however, he failed the Israelites by not bringing up a successor. Unlike Moses who apparently planned for what would happen when he passed on (Deut. 31:1-8), Joshua left Israel without a leader. This would soon lead to Israel’s decline and departure from God’s ways (Judges 2:10-15).

“As Josephus puts it in an editorial comment (Ant. 3.49) which has no biblical basis, Joshua possessed five crucial qualities: He was extremely courageous, valiant in endurance of toil, highly gifted in intellect, highly gifted in speech, and distinguished for piety in worshiping God.  Again, when summarizing his qualities upon Joshua’s death (5.188), Josephus singles out four qualities – his supreme intelligence, his supreme skill in speaking lucidly to the multitude, his stout-heartedness and great daring, and his utmost dexterity in directing affairs in peacetime and his adaptability to every occasion.” (Feldman, Louis H. “Josephus’s Portrait of Joshua.” The Harvard Theological Review, Vol. 82, No. 4 (Oct., 1989), pp. 351-376.)

Joshua, the son of Nun, from the tribe of Ephraim, was a military commander of the Israelites, faithful servant and apprentice of Moses, consistent leader of the Israelites, and a humble and faithful servant of the Lord. He left Egypt along with the rest of the Israelites after years of slavery, and he entered the wilderness with an anticipation of the Promised Land like few others. He patiently served the Israelite nation for 40 years as the right hand man of Moses. He succeeded Moses, as the leader of Israel, and he deliberately led the people of Israel into the land of Canaan destroying the Canaanites and establishing Israel in the land that had been promised to them through Abraham. He followed God’s commands directly revealed to him and directed to him through Moses and the Law of Moses.

5 Lessons I Learned By Studying The Life of Joshua

I have learned several things by studying Joshua.

  1. Leadership development takes time. Moses mentored Joshua for 40 years in the wilderness before Joshua took over.
  2. Developing leaders is important in continuing the legacy. Moses did an excellent job of this, but Joshua perhaps missed the boat on this by not bringing up a successor.
  3. Doing the right thing and standing up for it is always best.
  4. Keeping a positive attitude is essential to successful leadership.
    • Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. I Corinthians 9:24
    • Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14
    • I believe this is the kind of attitude that Joshua had as he approached the Promised Land, and I believe that we as followers of Christ and as leaders need to have this attitude as we seek to fully follow Christ.
  5. Keep God first in everything.  Joshua did this through most of his leadership, and God caused him to succeed.  Whether or not we succeed in man’s eyes, we as leaders need to keep God first in everything.

I’m glad I looked back at my notes.

What else do you think we could learn from Joshua?

If you could ask Joshua one question, what would you ask him?