Israel enters the promised land
God reaffirms Joshua’s authority; then Joshua tells the people to prepare to cross the Jordan.
Joshua sends two spies to check out the land and, in particular, Jericho. At Jericho, they stay at the house of a harlot
named Rahab who hides them from the king’s men. They make an agreement with her that she, and all staying in her
house, will be spared when the Israelites invade if a scarlet cord is tied in her window. She tells them that all Jericho has
heard of everything that God had done for them, of their recent conquests, and how they are all afraid of them. Rahab’s
window is in the city wall, so they are able to escape down a rope from the window, then go to hide in the hills for three
days while the king’s men are looking for them. They then return to Joshua to report that all the people fear the Israelites.
The next morning the Israelites move from Shittim and camp at the Jordan, which is in flood. After three days, the Ark of
the Covenant is carried ahead, and while the priests stand in the middle of the Jordan holding the ark, the waters are cut
off, allowing them all to cross on dry land. Joshua orders twelve stones to be collected from the middle of the Jordan. Once
they have all crossed, the priests carry the ark to the west bank and the waters immediately return, in flood as they were
before. They then move on to Gilgal where Joshua sets up the twelve stones as a memorial for future generations.
None of the young men had been circumcised during their wilderness wanderings. This is now corrected and all the men of
Israel remain in the camp until their circumcisions are healed. On the fourteenth day of the month they celebrate Passover;
then on the next day the manna ceases and they begin to eat produce from the promised land.
The fall of Jericho
Joshua receives instructions from God for the campaign against Jericho. For the next six days they march once around the
city with the Ark of the Covenant ahead of them, with trumpets being sounded. On the seventh day, when the trumpets
have sounded, all the people shout and the walls of Jericho collapse, allowing all the men to go into the city and conquer it.
Only Rahab and her family are spared, being taken to a place outside Israel’s camp, later to be permitted to live amongst
the Israelites. All the gold, silver, bronze and iron from Jericho is set aside for God’s treasury, and the city is burned.
Joshua then warns the people against any attempt to rebuild Jericho in the future.
Following a favourable report from men sent by Joshua to check out Ai, about three thousand men are sent against the
city, but they are defeated. Joshua is distraught; then God tells him it is because someone has lied and stolen some of the
things from Jericho meant for the Lord’s treasury. To correct this sin, the culprit has to be identified, punished and the
things stolen burned. By a process of elimination, tribe by tribe, clan by clan, then family by family, Achan is identified as
the culprit. He confesses and the stolen items are gathered and taken with his family outside the camp. Achan and all his
family are then executed and everything burned and covered with rocks.
God then tells Joshua to take Ai by an ambush. Men are to be sent to the other side of the city to lie in wait and the rest of
the army is to confront Ai. When the men of Ai come out to attack them they are to turn and run. As the men of Ai pursue
them and leave Ai undefended, those lying in wait are to attack the city and burn it. The men of Ai will then be caught
between the two groups and defeated. The ambush and subsequent defeat will occur while Joshua holds out his javelin
towards Ai. As God had instructed, Ai is totally destroyed and all its inhabitants killed. On this occasion God allows the
people to keep all the bounty.
Joshua builds an altar on Mount Ebal where burnt offerings are made and the law of Moses is copied onto the stones. As
instructed by Moses, all the people face the Ark of the Covenant, half of them in front of Mount Gerizim and half in front of
Mount Ebal, while Joshua reads all the law, the blessings and the curses.
The central and southern cities are conquered
When the kings west of the Jordan hear about Israel’s successes in the hill country, they all prepare for war, except the
Gibeonites. The Gibeonites send a delegation to Israel with the aim to make a treaty, dressed and equipped as if they had
been on a long journey from a distant country. Believing they are not from Canaan, and without enquiring of God, the
treaty is made and ratified by an oath. Three days later they hear that these people are Gibeonites and had deceived them.
When challenged about the deceit, the Gibeonites say it was because of all that they had heard and that they were in fear
of Israel. Because of the oath made, Joshua has to let the Gibeonites live, but makes them wood-cutters and water-carriers
for the community.
Having heard the Gibeonites had made a treaty with Israel, five Amorite kings join forces to attack Gibeon. The Gibeonites
appeal to Joshua for help and so he marches to Gibeon with all his fighting men, having been told by God not to fear the
five kings. The armies are taken by surprise, thrown into confusion by God and defeated. The armies are pursued and as
they flee Gibeon, God causes large hailstones to come down on them. More are killed by hailstones than by the swords of
the Israelites. There is not enough time in the day to complete the defeat of the Amorites, so Joshua calls out to God for
the sun to stand still to allow them more time: And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged
themselves upon their enemies.… So the sun stood still in the midst of the heaven, and hastened not to go down about a
whole day. And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the Lord hearkened unto the voice of a man: For the
Lord fought for Israel [Josh 10:13b, 14].
Joshua has returned to Gilgal with his army when he then hears that the five kings are hiding in a cave at Makkedah. He
gives orders for the cave to be blocked with stones and guarded while the remnant of the armies are pursued. However, a
few manage to reach their fortified cities without being caught. The five kings are then hanged and left until evening, when
their bodies are placed back in the cave, which is again blocked with stones. Joshua then attacks and defeats Makkedah,
totally destroying it and everyone in it.
From Makkedah, Joshua and his army move on to take and destroy the cities of the south as God had commanded, leaving
no survivors. They then return to Gilgal.
The northern kings are defeated
Led by Jabin, king of Hazor, the northern kings gather together at the Waters of Merom to war with Israel. Having been
told by God that He will deliver these enemies into their hands, as He had done in the south, Joshua leads his whole army
against the alliance and defeats the royal cities of the north, leaving no survivors. However, some Anakites survive in Gaza,
Gath and Ashdod.
Joshua and his army return to Gilgal and the land now has rest from war.
The division of the land
Joshua is now very old and not all the cities of Canaan have been taken. God tells Joshua that He himself will drive out all
the Sidonians and that Joshua is to include their land when dividing the whole land amongst the Israelites.
After some of the land is allotted, the tabernacle is set up at Shiloh. Joshua then allots the remaining land to the Israelite
tribes and clans as their inheritance. However, in numerous cases there are still some Canaanites living there, some of
whom, but not all, become slaves to the Israelites.
Cities of refuge are designated for anyone to flee to who kills a person unintentionally. There they will have protection from
Forty-eight towns are allocated to the Levites, each with pasture-lands surrounding them.
The eastern tribes return home
Having completed their obligation to take part in the battles to possess the land, the Reubenites, Gadites and half-tribe of
Manasseh return home to the east of Jordan. There they build an imposing altar by the Jordan, which the remaining tribes
take to be some form of rebellion against God because the tabernacle had been erected at Shiloh. A delegation is sent to
investigate and is told that the altar is not for offerings or sacrifice, but simply built as a witness to their continuing
allegiance to God. They felt the need to do this because they are separated from the rest of Israel by the Jordan.
Joshua’s last days
Joshua is now approaching 110 years and the end of his life. He convenes the tribes of Israel and reminds them of what
God has done for them, and will do if they follow his commandments. They are not to associate with the nations that
remain among them, not to invoke the names of their gods, swear by them, serve or bow down to them. To do so will
invoke God’s anger and they will quickly be driven from the land He has given them.
Like Moses before him, Joshua’s final act is to summon the people to present themselves before God. Speaking for God, he
briefly recalls their history from Terah, Abraham’s father, to the present day. They are called on to make the choice whether
to fear and serve God or to serve other gods, to which all respond with an agreement to serve God. Here, at Schechem,
Joshua makes a covenant for the people, commemorated by a stone placed close to the ark, and recorded in the Book of
Joshua dies at the age of 110 and is buried at Mount Ephraim, on the north side of the hill of Gaash.
The Times of the Judges
[Judges & Ruth]
A limited conquest
The children of Israel now turn to God to enquire which tribe should go first against the remaining Canaanites. Judah is
selected and, along with Simeon, subdue all except some in the valley. However, the tribes of Benjamin, Joseph, Manasseh,
Ephraim, Zebulun, Asher, Naphtali and Dan did not drive out all the Canaanites from places allotted to them, though Israel
is sufficiently strong to make many of them their tributaries.
God’s judgement on disobedience
Whilst the elders who outlived Joshua were still alive, the children of Israel continued to serve God. But with the coming of
a new generation who had not witnessed Joshua’s leadership and God’s good works, they begin to disobey His
commandments and break their covenant with Him by mixing with the Canaanites and turning to their gods. As God had
warned them, this would lead to a period in which they would be overwhelmed by the Canaanites and oppressed by them.
God’s plan is that each time the Israelites distance themselves further from Him, He will raise a judge to deliver them. The
Israelites seem incapable of learning from this, and following each deliverance they just seem to get into deeper trouble,
invoking God’s wrath more each time.
Now the Israelites begin to intermarry with the Canaanites and serve their gods. Consequently, God allows
Chushanrishathaim, king of Mesopotamia, to subdue them and they serve him for eight years. The Israelites cry out to God
and He raises Othniel, a nephew of Caleb, to deliver them from Chushanrishathaim. A period of forty years’ peace then
The Israelites again lapse into idolatry and are delivered into the hands of the Moabites for eighteen years. Ehud, a left-
handed man of the tribe of Benjamin, kills Eglon, the king of Moab, while pretending to offer him a present in the privacy
of his parlour. Ehud locks the doors when leaving, allowing time for his escape before the murder is discovered. He then
leads the Israelites into battle and the Moabites are defeated, bringing peace that is to last for eighty years.
The next leader was Shamgar son of Anath. He too rescued Israel, and did so by killing six hundred Philistines with an
oxgoad. [Good News Bible]
Deborah and Barak
Following Ehud’s death, the Israelites once again lapse and this time are oppressed for twenty years by Sisera, commander
of Jabin’s army in Hazor. Deborah is leading Israel at this time, settling disputes brought to her by the people. She
summons Barak to lead ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun to Mount Tabor, while she lures Sisera and his army to
the Kishon River where Barak will be able to defeat him. Barak refuses to go unless Deborah goes with him. She agrees but
declares the honour of victory would consequently be given to a woman. Sisera’s army is defeated and all slain in battle,
but Sisera flees to Zaanannim near Kedesh. Here there are some Kenites living who have had friendly relations with Jabin.
(The Kenites are descendants of Hobab, Moses’ brother-in-law.) Jael, the wife of Heber, a Kenite, lures Sisera into her tent.
Sisera is expecting to be hidden, but is killed by Jael while he sleeps by driving a tent peg through his temple. Deborah and
Barak sing a victory song and peace follows for forty years.
Having again fallen into idolatry, the Israelites are now oppressed by the Midianites who invade their lands each season,
destroying crops and livestock. After seven years, the Israelites call to God for help. Gideon is chosen by God, and an angel
of the Lord is sent to give him his mission. Gideon has no confidence that he is able to do the task and asks for
confirmation that this messenger is truly from God. When Gideon prepares a meal for the angel he is instructed to place it
on a stone, and when the angel touches it with his staff it is consumed by fire. Gideon is then instructed by the Lord to
pull down his father’s altar to Baal, build an altar to the Lord and sacrifice a bullock on it.
The Midianites and Amalekites come, as is their habit now, and camp in the Jezreel valley. Gideon sends messengers
throughout Manasseh, and to Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali to come to meet with him, but he again has doubts and asks for
two signs from God using a fleece laid on the ground overnight. After the first night, the fleece is soaked in dew but the
ground dry; after the second night, the fleece is dry and the ground covered in dew.
Gideon musters an army of thirty-two thousand men, but God does not want this great number as the Israelites would
claim victory for themselves. God instructs Gideon to send home all those who are fearful, which reduces the army to ten
thousand. He then has them all drink from nearby water and selects all those who drink by lapping (putting their hands to
their mouths) as those who are to fight. This reduces the army to just three hundred men. Gideon and his small army
panic the Midianites into fleeing by surrounding them; then, on Gideon’s signal, they blow trumpets and expose lamps by
breaking the pitchers in which they are hidden. When the Midianites are fleeing, the men of Manasseh, Naphtali and Asher
gather and pursue them. Gideon sends messengers throughout Ephraim who then join in the pursuit, capturing and killing
two princes of Midian and bringing their heads to Gideon.
The men of Ephraim then jibe Gideon for not including them in the original assault, but he appeases them by stating the
importance of their capture of the princes.
Despite the weariness of his army, Gideon then crosses the Jordan to pursue two Midianite kings, Zebah and Zalmunna. He
asks the men of Succoth and then, a little farther on, the men of Peneul for some bread for his army, but is refused on
both occasions. Gideon catches up with the Midianites, defeats the remaining army of fifteen thousand, then pursues and
captures the two kings, Zebah and Zalmunna. Returning via Peneul and Succoth, he teaches both communities a lesson for
not helping him when he had asked for bread for his men.
The defeat of the Midianites is completed when Gideon slays Zebah and Zalmunna. The Israelites ask him to be their king,
but Gideon refuses, saying the Lord will rule over them. He then makes a request of them that each should give him an
earring from their bounty. They agree and Gideon makes an ephod from the earrings and keeps it in his city. Unfortunately,
the Israelites come to treat the ephod as an item to be worshipped, and it becomes a snare to Gideon and his house.
Gideon has many wives and seventy sons, as well as one by his concubine in Shechem whom he named Abimelech.
Israel now enjoys forty years of peace, but, as is the pattern, when Gideon dies they slide into idolatry making Baalberith
The usurper Abimelech
Abimelech, the son of Gideon’s concubine in Shechem, seeking to fulfil the request made to Gideon to rule over the people,
suggests to the people of Shechem that it would be better for him to rule over them rather than the other seventy sons of
Gideon, especially as he was also of Shechem. This reasoning is accepted and Abimelech is given money to hire some men,
then slays Gideon’s sons at Ophrah, except for the youngest, Jotham, who hides from them. Schechem then unilaterally
makes Abimelech king over Israel. Hearing of this, Jotham goes to the top of Mount Gerizim from where he is able to recite
a parable, which all Shechem can hear. This parable belittles their choice of Abimelech asking and foretells their
destruction with a curse.
After Abimelech has been king for three years, tensions arise between him and Schechem, with Ebed’s son Gaal taking up
arms and opposing Abimelech. Gaal is defeated in battle, but the tensions between Schechem and Abimelech continue.
Abimelech goes into battle against Schechem and all the city is defeated and killed. He then goes to Thebez and attacks
that city, but the inhabitants take refuge in a tower within the city. While he is attacking the tower, a woman throws down
a piece of a millstone, striking Abimelech on the head and killing him. This act ends the tensions and fulfils Jotham’s curse
on the wickedness of Shechem and Abimelech.
Tola and Jair
After Abimelech there follows twenty three years of peace under Tola, and twenty two years of peace under Jair.
30-Day Reading Plan
This is a 30-day reading plan based on an average of 15 minutes per session - a total read time of 7½ hours.
The actual read times vary from 12 to 20 minutes to accommodate for practical read session end points. If the reading
times don’t suit you, then simply go at your own pace and note where you finished.
Please select your reading day below
New Testament History Books -
Old Testament History Books -
New Testament Epistles -
The Prophets -
The Poetry Books -