Bible Question:

I fully hold to the inerrancy of scripture, but Joshua 4:9 confuses me. The phrase ‘To this day’ suggests that someone other than Joshua wrote the book. Did someone else write the book?

Bible Answer:

The book of Joshua records Israel’s entrance and conquest of the land of Canaan which God promised to them. As a result, the land is called the Promised Land. Since Moses sinned, he was not allowed to enter the land (Numbers 20:12; Deuteronomy 3:23-28; 32:48-52). God then appointed Joshua the leader of the nation of Israel (Deuteronomy 3:28; Deuteronomy 31:23). Consequently, the book of Joshua records what happened as Israel entered the land and conquered it. The question we are concerned about is did Joshua write the book of Joshua? It seems that Joshua 4:9 suggests someone else wrote the book. Who wrote the book of Joshua?

Book of Joshua

Authors of the Book of Joshua

The Babylonian Talmud states that Joshua was the author of the book of Joshua. The quote refers to Moses and then to Joshua.

Who wrote the Scriptures? — Moses wrote his own book and the portion of Balaam and Job. Joshua wrote the book which bears his name . . . [1]

Since the Jewish writers were closer to the actual time the book was written, they have the advantage in determining who wrote the book. Yet, some liberal scholars today believe they have superior insight, even though they are living more than two thousand years later.

A reading of the book of Joshua reveals that clearly Joshua was the author of the book. For example, Joshua 24:1-15 records his farewell speech to the Israelites before his death. In this passage the first person pronoun “I” occurs sixteen times. That is, Joshua wrote out his speech and in verses 16-18 recorded the response of the people. Then from verses 19 to 33 it is clear that someone else wrote the ending of the book since it refers to Joshua. This is important since it reveals that Joshua wrote the speech in verses 1-15. In verse 29-31 we are told that Joshua died and was buried.

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. And they buried him in the territory of his inheritance in Timnath-serah, which is in the hill country of Ephraim, on the north of Mount Gaash. Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua and all the days of the elders who survived Joshua, and had known all the deeds of the LORD which He had done for Israel. Joshua 24:29-31 (NASB)

Since Joshua could not have written the conclusion to the book after his death, someone else had to write the ending to the book.

There are four other small sections that must have been written by someone after Joshua’s death. These are:

1. Capture of Othniel of Kirjath Sepher (Joshua 15:13-17; Judges 1:9-13).
2. Placement of seven stones in the middle of the Jordan River (Joshua 4:9).
3. “To this day” indicates a later addition as an explanation (Joshua 9:27).
4. Dan’s migration to the north (Joshua 19:47; Judges 18:27-29).

Who inserted this extra material? The answer is most likely Eleazer the priest and his son Phinehas (24:33). Joshua 4:9 reveals that most likely this priest and his son added these minor sections as commentary on what Joshua wrote. Why? Because most likely the priest would have remembered that Joshua setup the seven stones in the middle of the Jordan River.

Then Joshua set up twelve stones in the middle of the Jordan at the place where the feet of the priests who carried the ark of the covenant were standing, and they are there to this day. Joshua 4:9 (NASB)

Liberal Criticism of the Book of Joshua

However, liberal scholarship does not agree that Joshua was the author. J. Marteen H. Woudstra in his book “The Book of Joshua” from the The New International Commentary on the Old Testament states.

The primary views are the “literary-critical view,” the traditional-historical view” and “the conservative view.” The first two views have been proposed by liberal “scholars” who reject the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture.[2]

In short, because liberal scholars do not believe God wrote any book in the Bible, they reject the book of Joshua and Joshua as the author.

Gleason Archer in his book, A Survey of the Old Testament Introduction, provides a lengthy discussion of the authorship and date of the book, refuting the liberal viewpoint on pages 237-239.[3] In his discussion he briefly refers to another viewpoint that rejects Joshua as the author of the book of Joshua. Therefore, we recommend the following comments from A. C. Gaebelein, the author of The Annotated Bible about the Hexateuch viewpoint.

But all this Hexateuchal invention is easily disproven. The Hebrew always reverenced the five books, universally ascribed to Moses. They look upon them, and rightly so, as standing by themselves in solitary grandeur. The Hebrew Old Testament has three parts, Thora (Pentateuch), Nviim (Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah to Malachi, except Daniel) and Kethubim (Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah and Chronicles). To link Joshua with the five books of Moses is a thing unknown among the Hebrews. The book of Joshua was never bound together with the Law.  No manuscript has ever been found which links Joshua with the Pentateuch. The Pentateuch always stood alone by itself and was jealously guarded by the Hebrews. The Critics are unable to furnish any proof that originally the Pentateuch and Joshua were combined.[4]

In short, the liberal views are to be rejected. The liberal views are not superior views resulting from scholarship but from bias against Jesus Christ. They are the reaction of unbelieving men seeking proof for their unbelief in the Bible.

Inspiration of the Book of Joshua

Even though we believe the book of Joshua was primarily written by Joshua and then after his death Eleazer the priest and his son Phinehas added to the book, we must ask, “Is the book of Joshua” inspired by God? Does the book belong in the Bible?” The answer to the question has two parts. The first proof is that Joshua is inspired is that of Hebrews 13:5 quotes from the book. It quotes Joshua 1:5. The second proof is that Hebrews 11:30 refers to the walls of Jericho falling down in response to faith and the Israelites circling the city seven times.

By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. Hebrews 11:30 (NASB)

Only Joshua 6:6-21 records this event. This reveals that the book of Hebrews considers the book of Joshua to be Scripture. It is inspired and belongs in the Bible even though Joshua was not the author of every word.

Conclusion:

In summary . . .

Joshua, born a slave in Egypt, becomes a conqueror in Canaan. He serves as personal attendant to Moses, as one of the twelve spies (of whom only he and Caleb believed God), and as Moses’ successor. His outstanding qualities are obedient faith, courage, and dedication to God and His Word.[5]

In addition, Joshua was the author of the book that is named after him. God has honored him as the author of one of the books of Scripture. His name has been remembered for several thousands of years after his death. Our God gives His servant honor!

 

References:

1. Baba Bathra 14b. Talmud.
2. Marteen H. Woudstra. The Book of Joshua.” The New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Eerdmans. 1981. pp. 5-13.
3. Gleason Archer. A Survey of the Old Testament Introduction. Moody Bible Institute. 2007.  pp. 237-239.
4. A. C. Gaebelein. Josh-Chron. The Annotated Bible. Publication Office of “our Hope.” 1913., p. 4.
5. Wilkinson & Boa. Talk Thru The Bible. Thomas Nelson Publishers. 1983. p. 52.

Suggested Links:

Why is Rahab praised as an example of faith after she lied?
What does “to this day?” mean in Joshua 9:27?
How did the sun stand still in Joshua 10:12-14?
How old was Joshua when he entered the Promise Land?