How old was Joshua when he entered the promised land?
The answer to Joshua’s age at the time he entered Canaan, the Jewish Promised Land, is found by comparing passages in the books of Numbers and Joshua. However, passages from Exodus and Deuteronomy are also considered.
Chronological Events Described in Exodus –
At the beginning of the contest between Jehovah God and the gods of Egypt we are told that Moses was 80 years old and Aaron was 83 years old.
Moses was eighty years old and Aaron eighty-three, when they spoke to Pharaoh. Exodus 7:7 (NASB)
Exodus 13-14 describes Israel’s exodus from Egypt and the beginning of their journey to the Promised Land. The Israelites had difficult times as the million or more people moved through the desert toward Canaan. As a result they had many complaints. Their complaints were many and are described in Exodus 15-17.
Chronological Events Described in Numbers –
Numbers 1:1 gives us a date marker of the first month of the second year after the Israelites left Egypt.
Then the Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of meeting, on the first of the second month, in the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying . . . Numbers 1:1 (NASB)
This means that the events recorded in the book of Numbers begin in the second year of the wilderness journey.
We are told in Numbers 13-14 that after the Israelites came to the wilderness of Paran, Moses sent twelve spies to visit the Promised Land to help Israel prepare, but the spies returned with a discouraging report. The Israelites responded in fear, did not trust the Lord and did not want to go the Promised Land. Consequently, God told them that they could not enter the Promised Land and would have to wander in the desert for a total of forty years. Numbers 14:32-35 records Moses’ discouraging message from God.
Since Numbers 1:1 begins recording events in the second year of the wilderness journey, this reveals that Israel’s lack of trust resulted in 38 more years of wandering in the wilderness. It is important to note that Numbers 32:11-13 states that Israel had to wander for 40 years until all over the age of 20 died in the wilderness. That is, Moses told Israel that they had to wander for a total of 40 years, but 2 years of wandering had already occurred. That leaves 38 more years of wandering before they enter the Promised Land.
This reveals that Moses would be 120 years old and Aaron was 123 years old when they entered the Promised Land. This agrees with Numbers 33:38-39,
Then Aaron the priest went up to Mount Hor at the command of the Lord, and died there in the fortieth year after the sons of Israel had come from the land of Egypt, on the first day in the fifth month. Aaron was one hundred twenty-three years old when he died on Mount Hor. Numbers 33:38-39 (NASB)
Aaron was not allowed to enter the Promised because both he and Moses sinned in the wilderness of Zin (Numbers 20, note v. 12-13, 23-29). This means the book of Numbers summarizes the entire wilderness journey of 38 years. It only records key events.
Chronological Events Described in Deuteronomy –
The third verse of Deuteronomy gives us another date marker.
In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses spoke to the children of Israel, according to all that the Lord had commanded him to give to them . . . Deuteronomy 1:3 (NASB)
Here we are told the book of Deuteronomy is a record of events that started in the eleventh month of the fortieth year of Israel’s wilderness wanderings. Six months have elapsed since Numbers 33:38. There is only one month left before Israel will enter the Promised Land, but Moses will not go the Promised Land due to his sin (Numbers 20:12-13, 23-29).
At the end of Deuteronomy we are given this sad message,
So Moses went and spoke these words to all Israel. And he said to them, “I am a hundred and twenty years old today; I am no longer able to come and go, and the Lord has said to me, ‘You shall not cross this Jordan.’ It is the Lord your God who will cross ahead of you; He will destroy these nations before you, and you shall dispossess them. Joshua is the one who will cross ahead of you, just as the Lord has spoken.” Deuteronomy 31:1-4 (NASB)
Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land. He died at the age of 120 years. We have already been told that Moses was 80 years of age when he stood before pharaoh in Egypt (Exodus 7:7). We have already been told that Israel would wander for 40 years in the wilderness. The sum of those two numbers equals 120 years. Also, Aaron died at the age of 123 years and he was 83 years when he stood before pharaoh!
The book of Deuteronomy spans only one month, the last month of the wilderness journey.
Chronological Events Described in Joshua –
Numbers 13:1-16 lists twelve men who were the spies sent to the Promised Land. More than likely they were contemporaries and similar in age. If this is true, then Joshua and Caleb, another spy, would have been similar in age. Note, that this Caleb was the son of Jephunneh (Numbers 13:6). Then since Joshua 14:7 tells us that Caleb was 40 years of age when he helped spy out the land of Canaan, we have a rough estimate of Joshua’s age. In Joshua 14:7 Caleb states,
I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh-barnea to spy out the land, and I brought word back to him as it was in my heart. Joshua 14:7 (NASB)
Was Joshua also 40 years of age? Numbers 11:28 tells us that Joshua was an attendant to Moses. Consequently, most likely Joshua was 30-40 years of age when he helped spy out the land. If that is a correct assumption, then he would have been 68-78 years of age when he entered the Promised Land since the spies visited the Promised Land after the Israelites wandered for 38 more years. That is, 30-40 years of age plus 38 years of wilderness wanderings equals 68-78 years.
Final Chronology –
Joshua 24:29 tells us that Joshua died when he was 110 years of age.
It came about after these things that Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being one hundred and ten years old. Joshua 24:29 (NASB)
Joshua was probably 30-40 years of age when he helped to spy out the Promise Land after Israel sinned by not trusting God. The Israelites had to wander for an additional 38 years in the wilderness. This means that most likely Joshua was 68-78 years of age when he entered the Promised Land. Joshua went from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the desert. Then he was Moses’ attendant (Numbers 11:28) and eventually became the leader of the nation when they entered the promised land. In a way, that is the journey of a Christian. We are born and live in sin until we put our faith in Jesus. We live in newness of life as Christians in this world, a place that is not our home. Eventually we die physically to live eternally in our promised land – heaven where Jesus is waiting for us.